“Hollywood, usually so smitten with sequels, is trying to avoid turning #OscarsSoWhite into a trilogy. As the New York Times reports, a “castigated” film industry is scrambling to avoid a repeat of this and last year’s ceremonies, at which a grand total of zero actors of color received any nominations.
Perhaps taking a hint from Viola Davis, who, upon becoming the first African American to win Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series at the 2015 Emmy Awards, said, “the only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there,” the movie industry is cranking out “more than a dozen pictures with black issues, actors, and, often, filmmakers,” many of which are poised to be Oscar contenders.
Among them are big studio projects, like Disney’s The Queen of Katwe, featuring Oscar-winning Lupita Nyong’o and snubbed Selma star David Oyelowo, and Sundance darlings, like Southside With You, a.k.a., When Barack Met Michelle, and The Birth of a Nation, a drama about the Nat Turner-led 1831 slave revolt, which was scooped up by Fox Searchlight for a record $17.5 million.
This is all good news, even if the inciting incident, to borrow a term from the movies to talk about the movies, is such an unfortunate and embarrassing one. And, clearly, the Oscars did not exclude black talent due to a lack of options; this year alone could have seen nods for Beasts of No Nation, Creed, Straight Outta Compton, and Chi-raq. The increase in production of more movies about the black experience — particularly films about black women, like Queen of Katwe and the Taraji P. Henson-starring Hidden Figures — is welcome, overdue, and vital. But it’s not enough.
Inclusion is about more than increasing opportunities for just one underrepresented group. As appalling as the numbers are for black actors in film, the numbers are even worse for other non-white groups, particularly Asians and Latinos…”