Following one of the most consequential court cases in recent U.S. history, Hollywood wasted no time in reflecting on the state of race relations and police use of force in the Academy Awards show on Sunday, April 25 (Monday, April 26 in the Philippines).
The theme was revisited several more times, injecting politics into a broadcast seen around the world.
“I have to be honest, if things had gone differently this past week in Minneapolis, I might have traded in my heels for marching boots,” Regina King, the presenter who opened the show, said at the start of the broadcast.
She was referring to the conviction on April 21 of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, found guilty by a jury of all three charges in the death of George Floyd: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.
The case has rocked the United States ever since cellphone video of the incident on May 25, 2020, went viral. The video showed Chauvin, a white veteran of the police force, pushing his knee into the neck of Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man in handcuffs, for more than nine minutes.
“As a mother of a black son, I know the fear that so many live with, and no amount of fame or fortune changes that,” said King, who directed One Night in Miami, a film set in 1964 and dealing with the civil rights issues of that time.
Actress and deaf activist Marlee Matlin, in introducing the documentary awards, mentioned Darnella Frazier, the young woman who shot the cellphone video of Floyd’s death, which led to months of protests across the United States and beyond.
“Their impact can be extraordinary. Whether it’s a full length feature film or a cell phone video taken by a young woman in Minneapolis by the name of Darnella Frazier that became a catalyst for change,” Matlin said in sign language that was spoken by an interpreter.
Travon Free, a co-winner of the Oscar for live-action short, leveraged his big moment to address police use of force. His winning film, Two Distant Strangers, is about a man stuck in a time loop that forced him to relive a deadly run-in with a police officer.
“Today, the police will kill three people, and tomorrow the police will kill three people, and the day after that police will kill three people, because on average the police in America everyday kill three people,” said Free, who shared the award with Martin Desmond Roe.
Free went on to quote the late writer James Baldwin that it was “despicable” to be indifferent to other people’s pain.
“And so I just ask that you please not be indifferent. Please don’t be indifferent to our pain,” said Free, who while on the red carpet before the show opened his jacket to show it lined with the names of people killed by police.
Actor and filmmaker Tyler Perry spoke against hate during his acceptance of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, recounting the impact that major civil rights cases of the past had on his mother in the heavily segregated South.
“My mother taught me to refuse hate,” Perry said.
He listed those he refused to hate, such as people of color and LGBTQ people, but he also extended a hand to police.
“I refuse to hate someone because they are a police officer,” Perry said. – Rappler.com