A Nod to Diversity: Oscars 2017

89th Academy Awards statuette.
89th Academy Awards statuette.

Ten years ago, I went on my first date with my husband; the film minor. It was an epic long date topped off with a night of watching the Oscars, while being introduced to his team trivia group. Our team won that night of movie related trivia, and my husband won my heart. A few years later we made a commemorative ceramic plate with a hand-painted Oscar statuette together to celebrate our engagement. That Oscar night started my personal journey into building a bond with someone who was religiously, racially, culturally, and socioeconomically different from myself.

Oscar night before I met my husband was not something I bought into. As a person of color I didn’t want to watch, because many of the films and performances I treasured were often overlooked or under championed for inclusion.  Nevertheless, as my husband and I began to watch the Oscars and the nominated films together, I yearned to see more honors going to different stories that reflected the true diversity of the film industry both in front of and behind the camera.

Mahershala Ali in Moonlight, Viola Davis in Fences, and Octavia Spencer in Hidden Figures.
Mahershala Ali in Moonlight, Viola Davis in Fences, and Octavia Spencer in Hidden Figures.

After several bitter social media campaigns criticizing the lack of diversity in the Oscars, Hollywood’s big night has emerged differently this year. 2017’s Oscar nominations seem to reflect the complex interwoven reality of American life. Four out of five of the nominations for best documentary film were made by Black filmmakers.

Moonlight a coming age story about a Black male growing into manhood facing the complexities of drugs and his sexuality

Lion which features Dav Patel the first Indian actor to be nominated for best supporting actor in two decades.

The best supporting actress category that features the talents of three Black actresses: Viola Davis for Fences, Naomie Harris for Moonlight and Octavia Spencer for Hidden Figures.

Manchester by the Sea which was produced by Kimberly Steward, only the second Black female producer to get an Oscar nod for Best Picture (Oprah being the first with Selma).

2017 seems to be a celebration of diversity in story-telling.

This year as I celebrate my ten year journey with my husband and our three year old daughter. I take heart, the Oscars like my little family has come a long way in ten years, but still has a long way to go. There are still many underrepresented groups that have yet to be consistently recognized for their contributions to American film or not given opportunities to participate in the creative process.  As we celebrate this win for diverse story-telling it is vital that we encourage the next generation’s great story-tellers to capture their voices in film and continue to support diversity in all aspects of the film creation process.

Make sure to read some of the stories that inspired the 2017 Oscar nominees.

Hidden Figures

Fences

Lion

Arrival

Who are you rooting for this weekend?