Accepting the inaugural Most Valuable Player honour on what would have been the 86th birthday of Martin Luther King Jr, she made an emotional plea to Hollywood to use its powerful collective voice to “speak up” against human rights injustices within the industry and the rest of the world.
“Today is Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, so it got me thinking about our need to build the strength of diversity in our industry, and to stand together against homophobic, sexist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic and racist agendas,” she said.
“I'm an optimist and I can't help but feel hopeful about the future of film, especially looking at all of the beautiful people in this room.
“Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.' and I would like to encourage everyone in this room to please speak up. Thank you.”
Her words were particularly poignant following the Oscar nominations yesterday, for which she received a nod in the Best Supporting Actress category for her role in A Most Violent Year.
The shortlist has been the subject of some criticism after it was noted that, for the second time this century, every single actor in the Academy’s four categories is white.
Selma, a film about the battle for the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibited racial discrimination in voting, was nominated in the Best Picture category.
However, director Ava DuVernay became the ninth female filmmaker to have her movie appear in the Best Picture category, but her work omitted from the Best Director nominations.
David Oyelowo was also overlooked in the Best Actor category.
Asked by Vulture whether the Academy had a problem recognising diversity, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences president, said: “Not at all. Not at all. The good news is that the wealth of talent is there, and it's being discussed, and it's helpful so much for talent — whether in front of the camera or behind the camera — to have this recognition, to have this period of time where there is a lot of publicity, a lot of chitter-chatter.”
Perhaps ironically, Isaacs is the first African-American ever to preside over the Academy.
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