Open Letter to The Academy Of Motion Pictures Arts And Sciences
RE: Snub To Nelson Mandela Just Six Weeks After He Died
From Danny Schechter
New York, New York: It was ironic to read that the theme of this year's Oscar ceremony will be heroes---even as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences just snubbed the movie about Nelson Mandela that South Africa's first black President, and without question, a hero of the world, had given his rights to be turned into a major motion picture.
He wanted it made by South Africans, somehow not trusting foreign moviemakers.
I wonder why.
No one is questioning the Academy's right to nominate and honor any movie but, given the world we live in, and its need for inspiration, we can question the judgment involved in passing over a critically acclaimed story of a successful fight for freedom while lesser themes seem to be considered more compelling: crime dramas that spoof, but don't explain, the greed and criminality on Wall Street and government, a love affair between a man and his laptop, and a movie focusing on the ordeal of slave but not the system of slavery, among others.
For reasons that seem to reflect the commercial imperatives and callousness in American popular culture, we exploit the violence associated with victimization and subjugation but don't admire the sacrifice connected with liberation.
" Why does Hollywood prefer to milk guilt rather than promote solidarity? It is not "sour grapes" to ask questions like this.
Again, filmmakers must be free to deal with any and all issues but the public has a right to discuss the priorities, politics and values embedded in our "best" films even if the industry's voters do not seem to be conscious that their choices make a statement about their outlook, by what they vote for and what they ignore.
" Was Mandela Long Walk To Freedom passed over because it was produced by an African?
Movie critics in our best newspapers praised it for its integrity. It was debated, not panned. Mandela himself was saluted by all our media . Time Magazine, hardly a marginal outlet, issued a Special Commemorative Edition saluting a "Heros's Journey."
" Is it true that Hollywood can only handle one "black film" a year even as Mandela's fight for a non-racial society galvanized international support with 91 heads of State, including our own, speaking at his funeral. It rejected racism.
" Was a story deemed heroic by virtually every nation in the world ignored because it is not about some American obsession in an age when Hollywood claims to represent a global industry?
" Is it not entertaining enough?
" Was the lack of pricey big name American stars a liability?