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Diversity in the Movies in 2016

Diversity in the Oscar race: Last year, I remember that there were many issues raised about the lack of diversity in the Oscar’s. I agreed with this (although last year, in my opinion, there were not a lot of really strong, award-worthy performances by African-American actors. The root of the problem, I feel, is that there are not enough roles for black directors and black actors to really shine. This year is very different. I wrote to someone that if African-American actors and directors swept Picture, Director, Actor/Actress, Supporting Actor/Actress, and Documentary, I would not be disappointed. Has it happened before that there has been a black actor/actress/director nominated in all the above categories? “Moonlight”, a critical favorite (and my favorite movie of the year) features the story of a black gay man, has a black cast, and a black director (Best Picture and Best Director (Barry Jenkins III) nominations). Denzel Washington is up for Best Actor in “Fences”; Mahershala Ali for Best Supporting Actor in “Moonlight”; Ruth Negga for Best Actress in “Loving”; Olivia Spencer for Best Actress in “Hidden Figures” AND Naomie Harris in “Moonlight” AND Viola Davis in “Fences” (3 of the 5 nominations!). Four films featuring primarily black characters and stories achieved Best Picture nominations: “Moonlight”; “Hidden Figures”; “Fences”; and “Loving”.  And what about the documentary – “I Am Not Your Negro” and its director, Raoul Peck (I don’t know his racial background but he is Haitian by birth)? While I have not seen all documentaries yet, I cannot imagine any that is stronger than this picture based on an unfinished book by James Baldwin. 2016 surely will go down as one of the strongest (if not the strongest) years for Black artists with stellar performances by all.

About Gary Burkholder

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