2017 Oscar Nominations: Black Community Honored

2017 Oscar Nominations: Black Community Honored, Signaling End To ‘Diversity Drought’

The 2017 Oscar Nominations have been released today, honoring the black community with a record 10 nominations. The recognition is a marked departure from the past two years, where the failure of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to nominate any African-American actors or directors had the academy facing allegations that the Oscars were in the midst of a “diversity drought.”

African-American film has been a resounding theme this awards season, with drama Fences scoring a best actor nomination for Denzel Washington, while fresh from a win at this month’s Golden Globes, Viola Davis is again nominated for best supporting actress.

Also nominated for best supporting actress for Hidden Figures is Octavia Spencer. While overlooked for the statue at this year’s Golden Globe’s, Spencer is no stranger to Award Season wins, last receiving an Oscar in 2012 for her hilarious portrayal of a southern maid during the civil rights movement.

Coming of age drama Moonlight has seen Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris nominated for best supporting actor and actress respectively. Director Barry Jenkins has also received a nomination for his work on the film. Moonlight, along with Hidden Figures and Fences which received nominations for best picture.

Receiving nominations for best documentary were Ava DuVernay for 13th, Raoul Peck for I Am Not Your Negro, and Ezra Edelman for OJ: Made In America.

2017 Oscar Nominations Black Community Honored Octavia Spencer
Octavia Spencer has received a nomination for best supporting actress for her work in Hidden Figures. [Image by Jordan Strauss/AP Images]

While there has been a huge amount of awards season buzz for Nate Parker’s The Birth Of A Nation, the publicity surrounding the film has seen a renewed interest in previously acquitted rape charges against Parker and his co-writer Jean McGianni Celestin. While neither was convicted, intense media scrutiny in the case has seen Fox Searchlight, who purchased worldwide distribution rights at this month’s Sundance Film Festival jump into damage control. The film was passed up for all Oscar nominations.

The number of black actors and producers honored at this year’s Oscar’s has been seen as a return to normal. While the past two years have been a whitewashed anomaly, in the past decade, black actors have generally seen nomination rates for Oscars equal to their share of the U.S. population.

The 2015 and 2016 results created waves in Hollywood and the wider community with some coining the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite to express their outrage on social media.

In response, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – an overwhelmingly white, male group – pledged to increase the diversity of the board over a five-year period. In 2016 alone, the academy extended invitations to join to 683 actors, directors, and other industry insiders. A glance at the list shows a higher amount of diversity than what is presently on the board.

It should also be noted that the return to normal nomination numbers for actors and directors in the black community could be a result of the high quality of film released this year. Hollywood’s commitment to diversity and inclusiveness has been seen in the range of films released of late and has been echoed in award season nominations.

2017 Oscar Nominations Black Community Honored Meryl Streep Speech
Meryl Streep made a politically charged speech while accepting an award at the 2017 Golden Globes. [Image by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images]

This month’s Golden Globe awards saw an emotive, politically charged speech by Hollywood legend Meryl Streep captivate the audience. What began as a gracious acceptance speech turned into a call to arms to the film community to continue on the path to diversity and the “principled press” to continue to hold the Trump government accountable for doing the opposite.

Another notable change this year was the way in which Oscar nominations were released. While nominations have historically been announced in a live ceremony with the press in attendance, in what is perhaps a symptom of the digital era, the 2017 nominations were announced via a video link on the Oscars website. The academy’s commitment to diversity could be seen in the list of previous honorees chosen to make the announcement. Jennifer Hudson, Ken Watanabe, Guillermo del Toro, and Glenn Close were just a few.

[Featured Image by Danny Moloshock/AP Images]