Will Mahershala Ali (‘Moonlight’) or Dev Patel (‘Lion’) make Oscar history with Best Supporting Actor victory?

The Oscar race for Best Supporting Actor at the 89th Academy Awards has suddenly become more interesting — and potentially historic. SAG and Critics’ Choice winner Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight”) remains the frontrunner (2/9 odds) to win according to Gold Derby’s experts. But a BAFTA triumph by Dev Patel (“Lion”) has suddenly made the British-born Indian actor a serious contender with 16/1 odds. Regardless of who ends up taking home the Oscar, a win by either actor would make history in this category. Click through our photo gallery above of every Best Supporting Actor winner in Oscar history.

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A victory for Patel would make him the first actor of Indian descent to win an acting Oscar. In “Lion,” Patel plays Saroo, an Indian boy who had been adopted as a child by an Australian couple and decides to search for his biological family. Patel has a few advantages as noted by Gold Derby editor Tom O’Neil: “BAFTA can often be a strong Oscar indicator since the two voting groups share hundreds of the same members. Patel has other strong plusses as an Oscar candidate now. Veteran Oscar-grabber Harvey Weinstein is steering his campaign and Patel holds an Oscar I.O.U. after his break-out film ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ won Best Picture of 2008, but he wasn’t even nominated.”

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But Ali remains a strong frontrunner to win, particularly after acing his “Oscar audition” with a powerful speech at the SAG Awards. Ali spoke emotionally about the theme of persecution in the film, as well his conversion to Islam and the conflicts within his own family regarding that conversion. A win for Ali would make him only the fifth black actor to win in this category, and also the first Muslim to win an acting Oscar.

Video produced by David Janove

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