In this supposed “Black Cinematic Renaissance,” which spans nearly a decade, only one year has witnessed more than one Black-directed film nominated for Best Picture (2018: “Black Panther” and “BlacKkKlansman”). And in the Academy’s 92-year history, there have only been six Black Best Director nominees. Among them, none have been Black women, and only one film directed by a Black woman has ever received a Best Picture nomination (“Selma”). And this problem isn’t just contained to Black Western films. Since 2000, only six films from Africa have received nominations for Best International Feature (Tunisia received a nod this year for “The Man Who Sold his Skin”). None have made the jump to Best Director or Best Picture.
Ever since #OscarsSoWhite, the Academy’s strides with regards to diversifying its membership have of course widened while causing the number of Black nominees to multiply. And yet that change remains insulated from the Best Director and Best Picture fields.
Considering the soul-searching white people supposedly did over the summer, shouldn’t more than one Black movie have received recognition for the ceremony’s two biggest prizes? Shouldn’t Black women like King and Blank who earned recognition from the DGA for their debut features break through?
Wasn’t representation supposed to fix this? Or as Vulture critic Angelica Jade Bastién elucidates in her thought-provoking Twitter thread, is the leveraging of representation near useless in the Hollywood machine?
The Academy, as much as it says otherwise, has never been about quality (shocker, I know). Money. Narratives. Star power. These shape who lands a nomination. So it’s fruitless to argue over what films, based on quality, deserve to be there. Especially when competition should not be endemic to art. These factors, however, should cause one to question the limits of representation. Can a diverse voting body make diverse decisions when a capitalistic system predicated on prejudice says otherwise?
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