The color of Hollywood must change

As the 88th Academy Awards show credits rolled recently, it brought pause to reflect on the evening and also a future hope that the showcase event for cinema will go down in history as the last ever to leave African-Americans off the list of nominees.

Yes, this was the second year in a row in which no black actor or director gained a nod from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. And it’s not like there were no good performances.

The omission marks a retreat from a decade ago, when great black roles — and films that include them — were surging. The setback is frustrating, but it’s also a missed opportunity to encourage more engaging filmmaking.

Compare film to today’s television offerings — a world where some of the strongest series, roles and performances involve people of color. With demonstrated commercial and artistic success, these shows prove that audiences are hungry for storytelling in all its diversity. Moviegoers want no less.

The Academy has broadened its voting membership in a belated effort to bring newer perspectives to the Oscar nominating field — to change its “taste culture,” as one observer described it. That’s an incremental step. Greater progress must be made on the creative front end, fostering and funding more writers, directors and actors committed to high-quality films that, one by one, contribute to a cultural mosaic that more fully reflects the American experience.

Of course, there’s no racial-quota system for Academy Awards, nor should there be. Great films are so relatively rare that we are thankful for each of them, no matter the race or gender of the directors and stars. But can’t we move past overwhelming whiteness? The nation is not “Downtown Abbey,” after all.

American culture — multiple races, intertwined yet divided — is diverse, deep and full of dramatic tension. That is the stuff of movie excellence, if Hollywood will simply give it a chance to shine.

Reprinted from the Northwest Florida Daily News

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