OscarsSoWhite: What might the Oscars 2017 hold for black actors and filmmakers?

The Birth of a Nation and Nate Parker remain the best bets for Oscar nods next year

Jess Denham
Wednesday 02 March 2016 15:22
Nate Parker is the hot contender for an Oscar for Sundance smash The Birth of a Nation next year
Nate Parker is the hot contender for an Oscar for Sundance smash The Birth of a Nation next year

The Oscars might be over for another year but the diversity crisis that overshadowed this awards season is going nowhere. The Academy has promised new initiatives to discourage all-white acting nominations for a third consecutive year but it remains to be seen how long Hollywood will take to catch up with 21st-century attitudes towards both race and gender.

So with 12 months to go, what might the 2017 ceremony hold for black actors and filmmakers? It’s obviously too early for accurate predictions but a scout around key players’ upcoming projects has unearthed some movies that could potentially bring glory at the Dolby Theatre next year.

Let’s take a look at some of the contenders in the pipeline:

Nate Parker for The Birth of a Nation

Parker wrote, produced, directed and acted in this historical drama about Nat Turner, who led the Virginia slave rebellion in 1831. If he isn’t at least nominated for most of the Oscars out there, it will be a shock, not least because Fox bought the global film rights for $17.5 million at Sundance last month in the largest deal ever seen at the festival. The Birth of a Nation went on to win the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award after earning the “most enthusiastic standing ovation of the year”. Expect big things come its release on 7 October.

The Birth of a Nation won a standing ovation before and after its Sundance screening

David Oyelowo for A United Kingdom

Oyelowo plays Prince Seretse Khama, inaugural Botswana president from 1966 to 1980, in this follow-up to 2015’s Belle. Films about real life people often hold clout with the Academy when done well and with Gone Girl’s Rosamund Pike playing Khama’s eventual wife Ruth Williams, A United Kingdom should pull in cinemagoers. Khama sparked a global stir when he married the white Londoner in the late Forties and the first pictures from the movie promise beautiful costumes and cinematography. No release date as of yet.

David Oyelowo at the 65th Berlin Film Festival in February

Will Smith for Collateral Beauty

Smith notably boycotted the 2016 Oscars in protest at the all-white acting nominations. Some suggested that his anger stemmed from not being nominated for Concussion but he strongly denied this, insisting that he was against the lack of opportunities available for black actors and directors in Hollywood. In this drama, he plays a New York advertising exec who falls into depression after personal tragedy strikes. Naomi Harris, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley Helen Mirren, Michael Pena and Edward Norton make up a star-studded cast.

Will Smith boycotted the 2016 Oscars over its lack of diversity 

Ruth Negga for Loving

Ethiopian-Irish actor Negga stars alongside Joel Edgerton in this adaptation of the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, who lived together in 1960s Virginia when interracial relationships were illegal. Their civil rights case Loving vs Virginia brought about the end of racial marriage restrictions in America. Jeff Nichols is directing and both his leads could earn Oscar nods.

Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo for Americanah

No word on where this one is in the production schedule but it’s based on Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s novel and book adaptations often fare well at the Oscars (note Brie Larson winning Best Actress for Room this year). Nyong’o won Best Supporting Actress for 12 Years a Slave in 2013, so already has the Academy in her favour, while Oyelowo is certainly on its radar following his turn as Martin Luther King in Selma.

Lupita Nyong'o has already won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar - can she do it again?

Madina Nalwanga for The Queen of Katwe

Newcomer Nalwanga plays Ugandan chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi in Indian filmmaker Mira Nair’s adaptation of Tim Crothers’ book. Forest Whitaker won Best Actor for the last big Ugandan-shot film The Last King of Scotland, and this also stars Nyong’o and Oyelowo. One to watch, if done skilfully enough to draw audiences.

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