The Academy Awards, Hollywood's most glamorous night is usually about excellence in the art of film making, but this year issues like diversity in movies, dreamers as well as social movements like #MeToo and gun control focused Never Again were front and center.
In his opening monolouge, host Jimmy Kimmel urged prospective winners who will take the stage to say whatever they want concerning social issues that matter to them in their acceptance speeches. However, he later then joked that whoever gives the shortest speech will get a jetski.
He also talked about the strides that some women and men of color were making in the nominations. “If you are a nominee tonight who isn’t making history, shame on you,” he joked. Kimmel then went on to poke fun at US Vice President Mike Pence referring to the gay themed nominee for best picture Call Me By Your Name he said, “We don’t make movies like ‘Call Me By Your Name’ to make money. We make them to upset Mike Pence.”
The social theme culminated when hip hop artist Common and singer Andra Day performed "Stand Up For Something," while sorrounded by 10 activists representing movements like Black Lives Matter, Sandy Hook Promise and Black Rock Youth.
Common called out President Trump and the NRA in his freestyle rap saying “On Oscar night, this is the dream we tell. A land where dreamers live and freedom dwells. Immigrants get the benefits. We put up monuments for the feminists. Tell the NRA they in God’s way.” He then finished his set with “These days we dance between love and hate. A president that chose with hate. He don’t control our fate. Because God is great. When they go low we stay in the heights. I stand for peace, love and women’s rights.”
The most dramatic candid moment belonged to best actress winner Frances McDormand who asked all women who were nominated to stand up. She called on for more film projects to be created by women and urged the addition of "inclusion riders" to contracts.
Meanwhile, Rachel Shelton who won for best live action short The Silent Child chose to use sign language in her acceptance speech bringing the plight of the disabled to a broader audience “I made a promise to our six-year-old lead actress that I’d sign this speech. My hands are shaking so I apologise. Our movie is about a deaf child being born into a world of silence. This is happening, millions of children all over the world live in silence.” she signed.
Guillermo Del Toro who won best director for The Shape of Water and is also Mexican chose to tackle immigration.“I am an immigrant. The greatest thing our art does and our industry does is to erase the lines in the sand. We should continue doing that when the world tells us to make them deeper.” he said.
It was a sentiment echoed by presenter Lupita Nyong'o and Kumail Nianjani who spoke out in defence of Dreamers- a group of undocumented immigrants who were brought in the United States as children. "We are dreamers. We grew up dreaming of one day working in movies. Dreams are the foundation of Hollywood. And dreams are the foundation of America." she said and Nianjani added “And so to all the dreamers out there, we stand with you,”
It is good that these celebrities are speaking out after all the Academy Awards or the Oscars is one of the most watched annual television event on a global scale. Let us hope that they put those words into action though, after all many of them have the platform and the money to effect real change.