BY CHIEMEKA OSUAGWU
Every year when the nominations for the Academy Awards roll in, the internet folk go crazy, protesting what they perceive to be the Academy’s “lack of diversity”. Some people write think pieces, others rant on their Instabook and Facetweet pages, screaming bloody murder and using hashtags like #OscarsSoWhite. I am not one of these people, because I am not an idiot.
This happens every single year and to be honest, I am tired of it. Don’t get me wrong, I understand. Four hundred years of slavery is a bitch and a half, and the black community in America has struggled and fought institutional racism to get to where they are right now. Even in Hollywood, as a black person or a “person of colour” you have to work ten times as hard to be as successful as your Caucasian peers. I get that, I really do, but that doesn’t mean that every single black person that gives a quarter to decent performance or makes a decent film HAS to be nominated. It just doesn’t.
Take this year for example. The biggest outcries on the interweb are coming from black people (and white people who don’t want to be considered racist) who believe the following people of colour should have been acknowledged by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for their work in film in 2015; Ryan Coogler for writing and directing “Creed,” Michael B. Jordan for starring in “Creed,” Abraham Attah for his work in “Beast of No Nation,” and Jason Mitchell who played Eazy-E in “Straight Outta Compton” (Nobody cares about Will Smith and his Nigerian/Jamaican/Russian accent in Concussion).
I will admit that all the people mentioned above (except Will Smith, of course) did amazing things in 2015. I especially loved Abraham Attah, who played Agu in Cary Joji Fukunaga’s “Beasts of No Nation.” For a first time actor, he was absolutely breathtaking. The thing is there are great performances and amazing films that get snubbed by the Academy every single year.
Ridley Scott directed one of the biggest movies of the year (The Martian), but he didn’t get a nod. Same thing happened with Todd Haynes who didn’t get a nod for directing “Carol.” Last year, “The Lego Movie,” which was by far the best animated feature of 2014, was snubbed in that category. Stanley Kubrick didn’t even get nominated for “The Shining.” It happens every single year. People miss out on Oscar nominations; not because they’re black or white or Hispanic. It’s because, with the exception of the “Best Picture” category, every other category at the Oscars has a maximum of five slots to fill. That’s an extremely small number of slots for a plethoric amount of performances every year, and the fact that you are a person of colour shouldn’t guarantee you an automatic slot. Even your race card can get declined.
Of all the people of colour that got snubbed this year, the only one I wish got a nod is Abraham Attah. I’m not angry he didn’t get nominated. I’m not going to sign an online petition to boycott the Academy Awards. I just wish he got a nod. Like how I wished Nicolas Winding Refn got a nomination for directing “Drive” back in 2012. It has nothing to do with the colour of his skin, gender, sexual preference, or what country he’s from. All I care about is the film and the performance. I am a fan of film, not a fan of black film, not a fan of French cinema. I am a fan of film, and as a fan of film, it kills me that every single year, we boil all the good things that have been done in cinema for the year down to race.
I don’t know. It’s possible I’m just being naïve and the Academy really does hate black people. It’s possible I’ve seen so many white people in movies in my life; I’ve become a closet Caucasian. It’s also possible, I’m right and everybody needs to drop their pitchforks and torches and chill the hell out, but what do I know?