February 12 - 17, 2025

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2017 #OscarSo…?

One year after the #OscarsSoWhite controversy (initiated by April Reign in 2015), on Tuesday, January 24th 2017, Hollywood was waiting for the unveiling of the 2017 Oscars nominations. Well, it appears that the trend has shifted – nominees in almost all categories are much more “diversed” than the previous years.

For the first time, 3 out of 5 films nominated in the ‘Best Pictures’ category are black: Hidden Figures, Fences, and Moonlight.

For the first time, 3 out of 5 women nominated in the ‘Best Supporting Actress’ category are Black: Viola Davis, Naomie Harris and Octavia Spencer.

For the first time, 4 out of 5 documentaries nominated in the ‘Best Documentary Feature’ category are made by Black filmmakers and dealing with black subjects: 13th by Ava DuVernay, OJ: Made in America by Ezra Edelman, I am Not Your Negro By Raoul Peck and Life Animated by Roger Ross Williams.

AND, HISTORY IS BEING MADE! Barry Jenkins became the 4th black director nominated for Best Director; Moonlight, his critically acclaimed and winner of a Golden Globe for Best Film, got 8 nominations in major categories including: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay. Denzel Washington became the black actor with the most nominations (7). These nominations are certainly encouraging, but become a little less so when we consider the fact that the Oscars have been around since 1929, meaning for almost 90 years…   It must be pointed out that in 2012 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science was composed of 93% white and with 76% of men with an average age of 60 years old – And this, even with a black woman as president, Cheryl Boone Isaac, since 2013. This observation is not surprising as it applies to most large film and audiovisual companies in the world. Leaders, decision-makers and boards of directors almost have the same profile, color and background, and do not reflect the diversity of the population and public. While attending the 2016 Montreal Black Film Festival, Spike Lee said, “As long as there are no people of color with decision-making powers in the main Hollywood studios, Diversity on screen will be constantly threatened.”  With the media coverage of #OscarsSoWhite, the Academy has taken several steps, one of which would be to double the number of women and visible minorities in the voting ranks by 2020. April Reign and her #OscarsSoWhite shook Hollywood and its most privileged members – it is also important to recognize the big contribution of some activists in Hollywood like Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett Smith and many more who never gave up when it came to advocating for diversity on screen. But should we claim Victory? I believe that the #OscarsSoWhite movement has raised collective awareness and sparked a global conversation on diversity on screen in Hollywood. It reinforced the actions and longtime advocacy of many celebrities for a more diverse film scene. All this resonated with the Hollywood studios. And I am happy to see the number of black films that now enjoy reasonable budgets and are breaking records at the box office. Although we should not take anything for granted, let’s CELEBRATE Diversity on screen this year! We know that to reproduce such unprecedented year, we would need a massive range of Black films, each and every year. This is ambitious but … feasible! “- says Fabienne Colas, Founder and President of the Montreal, Toronto and Halifax Black Film Festivals.

For April Reign, which we had the chance to host during the 4th edition of the Toronto Black Film Festival in 2016: “A year does not solve a problem that has lasted for more than 80 years.

Things are evolving, but proof is we must continue to raise our voices and fight for total diversity on OUR screens. Our support to directors, independent productions and broadcasting initiatives is necessary so we can be visible and represented on a daily basis.

And this applies to all people of diversity – as April Reign putted so well in a tweet:   Everyone is saying the Oscars are more diverse this year. No they’re not. They’re blacker, but where are the Latinx movies, the LGBTQIA movies? The Asian American/Pacific Islander community has had a worse year. We can’t forget [them] just because we have black nominees this year. #OscarsSoWhite is about everybody.”  And for all lovers of good films and diversity on screen, the 5th Toronto Black Film Festival #TBFF17 offers you 40 films from 20 different countries from February 15 to 19, 2017! Films that will probably never go out to the movie theatres or will never be shown on television.By supporting independent festivals, you support the films, their directors, producers, actors, you give them visibility and more importantly: a voice. You make them travel so that their stories, our stories can be told, seen and taught. “Knowing one another better leads to greater understanding” – continues Fabienne Colas. “The Toronto Black Film Festival is the necessary festival in the cultural and social landscape of Toronto because, in addition to bringing together people of diverse backgrounds, it gives a voice and a platform to creators who otherwise would not have been seen nor heard. “

Alexe Louisa

Coordinator at TBFF