Arts & Entertainment, Pop Rhetoric

Celebrating Black Hollywood—even if the Oscars won’t 

Ryan Coogler. Viola Davis. Keke Palmer. This sounds like the line-up for the next tear-jerking, mind-bending, oh-she’s-acting-acting film, right? Unfortunately, not. It’s a small—and I mean SMALL—portion of the list of Black actors left out of this year’s Oscar nominations and ensuing celebration. Maybe you’ll remember the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, which blew up in 2015—well, in typical Hollywood fashion, nearly 10 years later, we’re back for a (disappointing) sequel. 

Out of their nearly 100 years of running, this is the 83rd time that there are no Black actors being featured in best actor nominations. There are no women directors at all—and no Black women directors have ever been—nominated in the director’s category. The Woman King, Till, and Nope all grossed millions of dollars at the box office and boast Rotten Tomatoes scores above 80 per cent; yet, none of them garnered a single nomination. 

As I clicked through article after article about Oscar nominations, my heart was dropping. Each one gave a different angle on why Black artists were being shut out of the Academy Awards this season. Some people were mad, railing that even after the awareness spread in 2015 and inclusionary efforts made by award institutions, nothing had really changed. Some people were more jaded, explaining that studios were simply out to do whatever would make them the most money. My mood sank deeper and deeper until I came across an article in the LA Times. The author, Shawn Edwards, argued that yes, so many awards shows and awards institutions ignore Black talent, but there are so many smaller organizations that uplift it.

During this year’s Black History Month, the idea of making this a time to celebrate Black achievement and experiences through Black Joy Month has gained popularity. In that spirit, this isn’t an article lamenting the lack of appropriate recognition for Black artists in Hollywood––this is one that celebrates the institutions that uplift them. Supporting those ones, bringing attention and renown to them is a way to make Black voices heard, Black performances celebrated, and Black experiences told. Don’t let your appreciation end with these awards ceremonies listed here—there are so many more rejoicing in Black talent on-screen.

Toronto Black Film Festival 

In their own words, “the Toronto Black Film Festival is about discovery.” The annual festival occurs every February and seeks to create a space for people to debate cultural, social, and socio-economic topics specific to Black Canadians. The festival hosts a mixture of live musical performances, film screenings, talks from industry professionals, and networking events. They celebrate a milestone anniversary this year—10 years of celebrating diversity within Black communities. It was just a decade ago that this festival was created by its sister festival that happens right here in Montreal.

Montreal International Black Film Festival 

Starting in 2005, the festival sought to showcase Black cinema and bring light to the types of movies often ignored by the mainstream media. Nearly 20 years later, after having welcomed thousands of guests, received international media coverage, and shown films from over 50 countries, the Montreal International Black Film Festival (MIBFF) is still going strong. This festival’s activities aren’t restricted to any one week; they put on workshops, film screenings, debates, and round tables all year round. The MIBFF also maintains a serious commitment to discovering and fostering new talent while seeking to develop the independent film industry in Montreal and across Canada. 

NAACP Image Awards

Finally, coming in a little more prominent than the previous two, are the NAACP Image Awards. Founded in 1967 as a response to Hollywood’s exclusion of Black talent, the awards show was created by the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) in the United States. Today, the show boasts over 40 different categories, with awards across television, film, music, and literature. The event is broadcast live annually on Fox Network, with this year’s ceremony airing on Feb. 25.  

While there is a lot to be desired with acknowledging Black talent in Hollywood, there is also reason for cheer. And who knows? If the focus shifts to institutions that are praising Black talent—and they are praised loudly and proudly—other awards institutions might have no option but to join in and celebrate it, too. 

The 2023 Toronto Black Film Festival will run from Feb. 15-20. The 2022 Montreal International Black Film Festival ran from Sept. 20-25.

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