Film & Television

The Incredible Whiteness (and Maleness) of Oscar

Two-time Oscar nominee Viola Davis agrees, “The problem is not with the Oscars,” she says. “The problem is with the Hollywood movie-making system. How many black films are being produced every year? How are they being distributed? The films that are being made, are the big-time producers thinking outside of the box in terms of how to cast the role? Can you cast a black woman in that role? Can you cast a black man in that role?”

Davis insists that the real problem lies with “The people who are in power . . . You can change the Academy, but if there are no black films being produced, what is there to vote for?”

This year, the majority of press about the Oscars has been about black nominees or rather the lack thereof. But, Hollywood is struggling with diversity and inclusiveness (Isaacs’s choice of words) in both the areas of race and gender. Where the industry’s women are concerned, there’s a shining exception in this year’s Best Foreign Language Film nominations. The category, which was established in the 1950s, recognizes official entries from non-U.S. countries and is given to each movie’s director. This year, France’s entry is Mustang, a critically acclaimed coming of age story. It’s the first full-length feature from director and co-writer Denis Gamze Ergüven and it’s a powerful look at international women’s rights issues. When five Turkish sisters are wrongly accused of immoral behavior, their lives change drastically. They are pulled out of school and kept as prisoners in their home until marriages can be arranged. A haunting film, Mustang has enjoyed only limited release here. Hopefully, its Oscar nomination (and perhaps win) will bring its timely message to a broader audience.

But, it’s a shame that we have to depend on French productions and Turkish directors to create the year’s most significant movie for women. Surely, we can do better here at home.

Since the nominations were announced in January, many Hollywood figures have followed Isaacs’s lead and expressed their satisfaction that the issue of inclusiveness is being addressed. “I’m glad we’re having the conversation.” “We need this conversation.” The thing is, all the politically-correct enthusiasm about the “conversation” isn’t enough.

It’s high time Hollywood did more than talk about it.

Join Women’s Voices for Change at our Live Blog of the 2016 Academy Awards on Sunday, February 28th.  This year’s Oscars promise to spark a very interesting “conversation” — and hopefully one that will lead to action.


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