The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences clearly heard the loud protests of #OscarsSoWhite.
After two years in a row in which actors of colour were marginalized by the Oscar nominations, the 2017 nominees showcase a more multicultural range of talent, both in front of and behind the camera.
While “La La Land” may have tied a record for the most nominations period (at 14, the same as “Titanic” and “All About Eve”), the Oscars also nominated six black actors this year, a new record. Denzel Washington and Ruth Negga received nods for lead acting in “Fences” and “Loving” respectively, while Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris of “Moonlight,” Viola Davis (“Fences”), and Octavia Spencer (“Hidden Figures”) all took supporting nods.
The best picture category honored multiple films that wrestled, each in their own distinct way, with African-American identity and history: “Fences,” based on the August Wilson play, “Hidden Figures,” the box-office hit about black women at NASA, and the critical darling “Moonlight,” which follows a black man from the projects of Miami through three parts of his life.
The documentary feature category also highlighted work that engages with the history of racial division in the US: “I Am Not Your Negro,” based on an unfinished James Baldwin book; Netflix’s “13th” directed by Ava DuVernay, about race and the criminal justice system; and Ezra Edelman’s sprawling account of O.J. Simpson’s life, “OJ: Made in America.”
Other firsts for minorities came in behind-the-scenes categories: Joi McMillon, nominated alongside Nat Sanders for editing “Moonlight,” became the first black woman in the editing category. And the cinematographer behind “Arrival,” Bradford Young, is the first African-American to be nominated in the cinematography category.
While there’s no doubt more that Hollywood, including the Oscars, can do to represent all Americans, many will no doubt be celebrating the step forward in this year’s nominees.
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