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Lessons for African-Americans in Film After the Oscars

With the 2015 Oscars in the books, there are lessons that African-Americans and African-American filmmakers can take away from Selma only winning Best Song.  When the nominations were announced and David Oyelowo and Ava DuVernay were considered “snubbed” for Best Actor and Best Director respectively, social media hashtags (i.e. #OscarsSoWhite) and claims of protests rained from the heavens for a lack of diversity.  Even though the Duverney film received plenty of critical acclaim, its downfall with the Academy was the last-minute screeners.

There are three creative changes that African-American filmmakers need to make for diversity and two facts that are forgotten about the winner of Best Director concerning diversity:

  • Fact #1:  The director of Birdman, Alejandro Inarritu is Mexican.  He was born Mexico and that is his native country.  So much for no minority representation.  Unless, someone will only consider him an immigrant.
  • Fact #2:  A film with an all African-American cast is not diverse.  An example needs to be made by those who are making the request.
  • Creative change #1:  Screenwriters must write characters with a backstory that warrants diverse casting.  There are characteristics that can only be sold in a film if a character is a certain ethnicity.
  • Creative change #2:  Casting directors need to cast diverse when possible.  If the core characteristics of the character do not warrant a certain ethnicity or nationality, then open up the casting.
  • Creative change #3:  Filmmakers need to diversify sub-genres and be more innovative.  Civil rights and/or slavery films cannot be fail-safe.  There needs to be more compelling movies released and marketed properly during “Oscar season”.  African-American filmmakers need to branch out beyond just creating ghetto stories, romantic-comedies (some with religious overtones) and the aforementioned civil rights and slavery films.

The new president of the Academy, Cheryl Boone Isaacs is an African-American woman.  African-Americans should not expect affirmative action with nominations.  African-American filmmakers need to produce the movies that will warrant the recognition of the Academy and be diverse about it.

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