Baftas 2017: Are the wins for Dev Patel, Viola Davis a good sign for diversity in Hollywood?
After last year's #OscarsSoWhite debate, which underlined the lack of racial diversity in the 2016 Oscar Nominations list, award shows have been consciously trying to diversify the nominee pool. Or so it seems.
The BAFTAs 2017 nominee list, was according to The Hollywood Reporter, 'a race related problem.' A columnist for the website had noted "that's because two top-tier Oscar contenders, who happen to be American-born people of colour, weren't even nominated in categories they might win at the Oscars: Moonlight's Barry Jenkins in the best director race (even though Moonlight was nominated for best film); and, in the best actor race, Fences' Denzel Washington. A six-time Oscar nominee and two-time winner, Washington, it turns out, has never been nominated for a BAFTA."
This made #Baftassowhite trend on twitter; following last year's #OscarsSoWhite trend.
But the BAFTAS award night did do its own bit to remedy the racist tag it had acquired.
Though the script predicted that La La Land would clean up at the awards, it was not the case. Surprise winners included Manchester By The Sea, Amy Adam’s sci-fi film Arrival and Ken Loach's gritty, angry I, Daniel Blake, which won the outstanding British film award.
The former Skins and Slumdog Millionaire actor Dev Patel won best supporting actor for his portrayal of a young man’s search for his real mother in Lion, beating hot favourite Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) and Ryan Gosling for La La Land.
He was visibly moved. "Wow! That just happened," he said, "Words, words, words. I sit at home and watch this with my family; it is such an overwhelming feeling." Patel is the first actor of Indian origin to win a BAFTA for his role.
— BAFTA (@BAFTA) February 12, 2017
Viola Davis had been widely tipped to win best supporting actress and she did so for her powerful performance in Fences. She used the press conference after her BAFTA win to caution that this year – in which Fences, Hidden Figures and Moonlight have taken a slew of silverware – may be an anomaly. "I believe what still is a deficiency is that we have one year a plethora of African American movies and then the next year nothing," she said. Predictions for next year’s awards have already been mooted, said Davis, 'and very few African American names are in there.' Davis cautioned that prospects for her daughter, Genesis, who is five, might be worse than for her own generation. She said, "She has to understand that she’s gotta be the change she wants to be. She can’t assume people’s minds have been woken up – we see that in the political climate now. We have to be the instrument of change now." Here's her speech:
While the best supporting actors and actress wins might have been won by people of colour, it looks like there is still time till films like Moonlight and Loving are nominated and win award shows like these. Whether these wins will reflect at the Oscars or not is a long way to go.
The Oscars 2017 will be broadcast on 26 February 2017.