The Oscars have become more multicultural and ethnically diverse in recent years. Only six years ago we saw a slate of contenders that included Keisha Castle-Hughes (“Whale Rider”), Ken Watanabe (“The Last Samurai”), Shohreh Aghdashloo (“House of Sand and Fog”) and Djimon Hounsou (“In America”). Two years earlier, in 2002, Halle Berry (“Monster’s Ball”) and Denzel Washington (“Training Day”) made history by becoming the first African-Americans to win Best Actress and Best Actor in the same year.
In 2008, “Slumdog Millionaire” swept the Oscars. Earlier this year where we saw three high-profile African-American candidates nab acting bids: Morgan Freeman in “Invictus”, and Gabourey Sidibe and Mo’Nique in “Precious.” -INSERTS-
This year, however, in the current Oscar race, actors from “minority” backgrounds (for want of a better description) are almost non-existent.
Tyler Perry‘s “For Colored Girls,” which might be regarded as a longshot, is really the only film that carries with it at least a glimmer of hope. Its largely African-American cast are the torch-bearers this year, with perhaps Kimberley Elise having the best shot. Nowhere else do I see any real contenders, unless you start looking even further down the general-consensus lists and throw names like Kerry Washinton (“Mother and Child”) and Sandra Oh (“Rabbit Hole”) in the mix, both of whom appear to be low priorities in their respective studios’ Oscar campaigns.
What do we make of this? Is it simply a matter of coincidence after years of progress? Or is it a sign that recent trends may be starting to reverse because studios and filmmakers are more risk averse and less inclined to tell certain stories? In other words, is this is blip, or is it the end of the world as we know it?
These are the kinds of questions that are being heard of late, albeit rather quietly for now. But how long until these questions become more vocal cries of protest? It seems rather likely that as we get closer to the announcement of the nominees early next year, we’ll be hearing about more and more of this issue and accusations will fly thick and fast that the Academy, and by extension the film industry has shut minorities out this year.
Perhaps such a conversation is moot in this day and age, and perhaps the current circumstances are simply coincidental given the “strides” made in years prior. Although it is interesting to note that these will likely be the “whitest” Oscars in years, perhaps ever, shouldn’t we entertain the idea that coincidence might be a factor before rushing to judgment? Only time will tell, I suppose.