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Calls for boycott over diversity mar 2016 Oscars

By GEORGE ORIDO | January 21st 2016
Some of the Oscar nominees are shown in this combination of file photos. REUTERS

NAIROBI: Trouble is simmering at this year’s Oscars as notable actors and producers of colour such as Spike Lee call for a boycott.

This comes after the Academy Awards nominations list gave a wide berth to black actors, producers and films.

For the second year running, no black or minority actors have featured in the four Oscars acting categories.

And adding her voice to the controversy facing the Hollywood-based event is Kenya’s own Lupita Nyong’o who said she was with the voices demanding inclusivity.

“The Oscars should have a diverse reflection of the best of what our art has to offer today,” she said.

Lupita, who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2013 for her role as Patsey in Steve McQueen’s historical drama 12 Years a Slave, is incidentally a member of the Academy that sits to go through volumes on entrances of films from across the world.

She was appointed by Academy President Cheryl Boon Issacs after she stole the limelight in that event held at the Dolby Theatre and in a year she dominated the silver screen awards and excelled on the red carpet, winning the hearts of many a world fashionista.

Mr Lee, who started his own film production house after missing on many white dominated auditions in Hollywood, posted on Instagram, “I cannot support the lily White Oscars.”


Voices of discontent are coming from across the races, with multiple Oscar winner and Hollywood superstar George Clooney calling for change in the manner the Academy jury is composed.

“The Academy is moving in the wrong direction,” said Clooney, known for his effort and work to create peace in wartorn South Sudan.

In 2013, 12 Years a Slave became the first ever film directed by a black man, Mr McQueen, to ever win an Oscar, heralding a new dawn of hope that the years of banishing African creativity at the Oscars had finally come to an end.

How wrong was the world on this. That was the last time an African was nominated or won anything at the Oscars.

12 Years a Slave, which is based on Solomon Northup’s 1853 autobiographical memoir, received nine Oscar nominations, finally winning Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Lupita Nyong’o) and the Best Adapted Screenplay.

The nominations were for Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design and the Best Editing.

Also boycotting this year’s Oscars, slated for February 28 at the Dolby Centre, is American actress, songwriter and businesswoman Jada Pinkett Smith.

In a series of tweets, the Set It Off actress wrote, “At the Oscars ... people of colour are always welcomed to give out awards ... even entertain, but we are rarely recognised for our artistic accomplishments. Should people of colour refrain from participating all together?”

Pickett Smith went ahead to write, “People can only treat us in the way in which we allow.”

British actor David Oyelowo has added to the hue and cry over the absence of black actors and black films at the Academy Awards.

“The absence of black actors among the nominees for the Oscars for the second year running is unforgivable,” says Mr Oyelowo, who missed out last year for his performance as Martin Luther King in Selma.

Sarafina star actress Whoopi Goldberg has called on movie makers to intervene by making movies that are ethnically diverse.

“Here’s the problem: The people who can help to make movies that have blacks and Latinos and women and all that - that movie doesn’t come to you. Because the idea is that there’s no place for black movies,” she said on her morning TV show, The View.


Oscars’ President Cheryl Boone Isaacs is reported to be taking action to reorganise the composition of their 6,300 members, made up of people from the film industry who vote on who is nominated for the Oscars each year.

The Academy’s president had this year announced nominees for the Best Picture as The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Room and Spotlight.

The Revenant received 12 nominations and Mad Max: Fury Road has 10. The Actor in a Leading Role category nominees are Bryan Cranston - Trumbo, Matt Damon - The Martian, Leonardo DiCaprio - The Revenant, Michael Fassbenderm - Steve Jobs and Eddie Redmayne - The Danish Girl.

Whilst the Actress in a Leading Role category has Cate Blanchett - Carol, Brie Larson - Room, Jennifer Lawrence - Joy, Charlotte Rampling - 45 Years and Saoirse Ronan - Brooklyn.

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