It’s been over a month since Chris Rock got on stage at the 2016 Academy Awards to give his (hilarious) opening monologue that centered on the Oscars’ lack of diversity within its nominations. For now it seems as if all the negative publicity the Oscars received from the #OscarsSoWhite movement has died down, but if the 2017 nominations cease to recognize black filmmakers and actors/actresses, the protests will likely rear its head again next January. Though, I have a feeling that won’t be the case.
The Sundance Film Festival darling, ‘The Birth of a Nation’, was recently given a nationwide release date of October 7th, 2016. That date says one thing to me–the film is shooting for an Oscar. Anyone who follows the movie award season knows that films that are vying for some sort of award(s) love will usually release in the fall or early winter to not only ensure eligibility, but to also make sure their film is fresh on the brains of voters.
The latter makes a lot of sense because people are likely going to remember a movie they watched last month compared to a movie they watched, let’s say, eight months beforehand. I personally can hardly remember what I did yesterday. So asking me to recall something insignificant I did eight months ago will cause me to make up a lie that’s so far-fetched it’ll only blatantly come off even more of a lie. That was long winded, but I’m sure you get my point.
Without having seen ‘The Birth of a Nation’ and with its release date being months away, I can already say the chances of the film receiving some sort of Oscar love are very likely. Once you read its synopsis below you’ll have a better understanding as to why:
Set against the antebellum South, ‘THE BIRTH OF A NATION’ follows Nat Turner (Nate Parker), a literate slave and preacher, whose financially strained owner, Samuel Turner (Armie Hammer), accepts an offer to use Nat’s preaching to subdue unruly slaves. As he witnesses countless atrocities – against himself and his fellow slaves – Nat orchestrates an uprising in the hopes of leading his people to freedom.
OK, so I’m not saying that the film will only be nominated just because the cast is clearly majority black, but given all of the diversity problems the Academy went through with this year’s awards, taking into consideration the movie’s genre and release date, ‘The Birth of a Nation’ certainly has a chance at a nomination. Going back to the former reason, ‘The Birth of a Nation’ is a movie that will be based around the topic of slavery, a topic that seems to typically catch the attention of the Oscars.
Over the past five years the two major films about slavery to be released were ‘Django Unchained’ and ’12 Years a Slave’, both won an Oscar, with ’12 Years a Slave’ taking home the award for Best Picture in 2013. Thus, ‘The Birth of a Nation’ is a film involving slavery and the fact that it took home top honors at the Sundance, its seems the film will definitely make waves once the award season rolls around.
The reasons I’ve given so far for ‘The Birth of a Nation’s’ award nominations purposely have yet to mention the film’s quality, mainly because it concerns me. With all of the negativity towards the Oscar’s diversity, the administrators behind the awards show have gone to great lengths to prevent this from reoccurring in the future (read the details here).
But that brings about the question if the Oscars will now simply start throwing around pity nominations to unworthy movies? Not that ‘The Birth of a Nation’ will be a terrible anything, I just feel the Oscars will try to make up for their mistakes, even if it doesn’t begin with this movie.
What if the Oscar’s panel actually feels it’s a deserving movie, will the public then feel their voices were finally heard, or will they chalk it up with the members of the Academy trying to avoid another bashing? This year’s ceremony had the lowest viewership in eight years so something needs to change, right? Maybe the public won’t be happy for that reason, or the black community will declare it only received a nomination because it’s another “slave movie.” If those thoughts become the narrative for next year, would the #OscarsSoWhite movement actually have hurt a movie like ‘The Birth of a Nation’?
We can all ‘what if’ for days, but the only thing we as viewers can really do is wait for the movie’s release and then judge if the quality is praiseworthy for ourselves. If the film is good but gets robbed of any nominations (like Michael B. Jordan was for ‘Creed‘), only then can we approach the diversity issue again. But until then, even though I’m predicting what its chances are, I and everyone else can’t say how likely it is that ‘The Birth of a Nation’ will be nominated for an Oscar. But if you’re a betting man (or woman), then I would side with me because I’m always right.
(Photo Credit: SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL – http://variety.com/2016/film/festivals/the-birth-of-a-nation-review-sundance-nate-parker-1201688498/)