Spike Lee, Pinkett Smith to boycott Oscars

Director Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith (above) are unhappy that no black actor has been nominated for this year's Academy Awards.
Director Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith (above) are unhappy that no black actor has been nominated for this year's Academy Awards.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Director Spike Lee (above) and actress Jada Pinkett Smith are unhappy that no black actor has been nominated for this year's Academy Awards.
Director Spike Lee (above) and actress Jada Pinkett Smith are unhappy that no black actor has been nominated for this year's Academy Awards.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK • The outcry over the nomination of 20 white actors, and no black ones, for the Oscars gained momentum on Monday, which was Martin Luther King Jr Day, as director Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith announced they would not be attending the ceremony.

Lee announced on Instagram and Pinkett Smith through a video their intention to boycott the Academy Awards on Feb 28 because, for the second year in a row, none of the actors nominated are black. But they did not call on comedian Chris Rock, who is scheduled to host the awards, to do the same.

Referring to himself and his wife, Lee wrote: "We cannot support it and mean no disrespect to my friends", naming Rock; one of the producers, Reginald Hudlin; and Ms Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president. All three are black.

In a video released on Monday, Pinkett Smith said of Rock: "I can't think of a better man to do the job at hand this year than you, my friend, and good luck."

She had already taken aim at the Academy last Saturday, asking on Facebook and Twitter: "Should people of colour refrain from participating all together?"

She added: "People can only treat us in the way in which we allow."

She answered her own question on Monday, saying in the video: "We can no longer beg for the love, acknowledgment or respect of any group."

Her husband, Will Smith, was a Best Actor contender for his lead role in Concussion, but received no nomination.

Lee received an honorary Oscar in November last year. His latest film, Chi-Raq, earned no nomination.

On Monday, Ms Isaacs issued a statement saying she was "both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion" in this year's nominees.

The Academy's diversity push in recent years had not brought change fast enough, she wrote, and she promised an upcoming review of their recruitment efforts. Having only white nominees in acting categories for two years straight is an aberration in recent Oscar history. The last time no black actors received nominations for two consecutive years was in 1997 and 1998.

Yet the homogeneity of Hollywood has recently come under increased scrutiny. The American Civil Liberties Union called for a government investigation into potentially discriminatory hiring practices in May last year. The Directors Guild of America released a study last month showing that 82 per cent of movies from 2013 and 2014 were directed by white men.

Meanwhile, in London, actor Idris Elba - who was shut out of Oscar contention despite being a heavy favourite for Beasts Of No Nation - denounced the lack of diversity in British television to lawmakers there.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 20, 2016, with the headline 'Spike Lee, Pinkett Smith to boycott Oscars'. Print Edition | Subscribe