OscarsSoWhite and Why It’s Still an Issue

On February 4th, 2017, Kim Masters spoke with Oscar nominated director Raoul Peck on his “I Am Not Your Negro” in a weekly podcast called The Business.

“I Am Not Your Negro”, which is nominated for Best Documentary in this year’s Academy Awards, tells the story of James Baldwin, a writer and activist who spoke on black equality and opportunity in the United States. In the podcast, Masters and Peck spoke of not just the film but also the issues facing the United States, namely, is the immigration executive orders a concerning factor and if OscarsSoWhite is still a thing to be worried about.

Mr. Peck, when answering a question about whether he would go to the Oscars due to the immigration issues that are currently facing the U.S., stated: “The situation is a very delicate one, and I hope that the majority of people in this industry will find a way to make it clear to everybody that we cannot go on like this” (Masters and Peck 2017). He continued by saying that life is more important than filmmaking (Masters and Peck 2017). It is this position that I can agree and sympathize with, it is difficult in this industry to deal with the current politics in a way that is constructive because so many people in said industry are from various parts of the world. Not to give Meryl Streep any more screen time than she deserves but she made a valid point at the Golden Globes – the film industry is diverse. However, Mr. Peck believes that it is not diverse enough. At the end of the podcast, Mr. Peck mentions that the OscarsSoWhite issue is still prevalent and will not go away despite the diversity of Oscar contenders this year:The 

Masters: We mentioned earlier that you believe OscarsSoWhite is still a thing. Three of the Oscar contenders are about black life in America, your life, the OJ film, and The 13th. That’s not going to cut it for you? It’s going to help?

Peck: Nope, nope, it’s going to help. You know, filmmakers, we know the story. In particular, black filmmakers or women filmmakers. It’s not because that for some chance we have four films this year in the documentary category and so many actors nominated that anything substantial has changed; because we all know how hard we had to fight to make these films. You know, they were not granted, they were not the result of some decision from any studio. The Academy (has) done structural change, which I think are important, but the key is how do we share the power of being able to greenlight a movie? That’s the decision. As long as we don’t have the right people on the leverage, that important decision, there will not be any structural or relevant change (Masters and Peck 2017).

While I can sympathize with Peck and his concern for diversity, I have to disagree. OscarsSoWhite can be disproven and while the concerns of black filmmakers and women filmmakers and diversification is legitimate and necessary for proper civil discourse, I would like to propose that the film industry has and is continuing to improve over the last few years when it comes to this issue. An example being that for the last few years, the Best Cinematography and Best Director categories have gone to Mexicans. The Academy is moving into the direction of diversity, but we shall see what is to come of it on Oscar Day.

Work Cited

“The Business: Director Raoul Peck “I Am Not Your Negro”.” Interview. Audio blog post. N.p., 04 Feb. 2017. Web. 4 Feb. 2017. <http://www.kcrw.com/news-culture/shows/the-business&gt;.

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