African-American Absence at the Oscars Has Deep Roots

February 18, 2011  |  

(The Star-Ledger) — The Oscars can sometimes be predictable, and sometimes only seem to be. But there is one person you definitely will not see picking up a major award on Feb. 27.  A famous African-American.  Any famous African-American.  For the first time since the 2000 Oscars — the year of “Gladiator” — it’s an all-white race. Director, actor, actress — even the supporting-performance categories are monochromatic. (The closest you might come is Hailee Steinfeld, of “True Grit,” whose mother is reportedly of white, Asian and African-American descent.)

“I don’t want to make this just another whine,” says Warrington Hudlin, head of New York’s Black Filmmaker Foundation (and veteran producer of projects like “Boomerang” and TV’s “Bebe’s Kids”). “There are ebbs and flows, I know. But I was very disappointed this year.”  “It’s really discouraging,” agrees Tim Gordon, a Washington, D.C., film journalist and chief of the Foundation for the Advancement of African-Americans in Film. “I don’t want to be a conspiracy theorist, though; There are probably a lot of factors.”  There are certainly a number of theories. That, with the Obama election won, Hollywood has forgotten about race. That plenty of Oscar-caliber talents (Will Smith, Spike Lee) weren’t very active this year. That most of the films blacks did make were, in Gordon’s words, simply “gosh-darn awful.”

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