The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has recognized only four African Americans, all men, with Oscar nominations for Best Director: John Singleton (“Boyz N the Hood,” 1991), Lee Daniels (“Precious,” 2010), Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight,” 2017) and Jordan Peele (“Get Out,” 2018). The Hollywood Reporter brought them together to discuss the significance of their nods, what can hold Black directors back and the representation of Black people on the silver screen. The article, which came out today (February 23), notes that neither these men nor the one other Black Best Director nominee, Britain’s Steve McQueen, have actually won the award. Here are four poignant quotes from the roundtable:
Singleton on fearing his “Boyz N the Hood” nomination:“I thought it meant my career was over. I thought, ‘That’s their way to get me out.’ I was really very humbled by it, too. I was a year out of film school when it happened, and I just sat down and tried to write and study film even more than I already had so I was up to that honor. At the same time, as a Black man in America, my other fear was not wanting to necessarily lose myself in the hype of Hollywood.”
Daniels on changing industry barriers that hold back Black filmmakers: “If you really want to be real, we could only do ‘Black’ stories. And until recently, it was, ‘How can Black movies make money?’ I don’t know if you can call it racism, maybe it’s just the business and the naivete about who our audience was. People have learned through ‘Empire,’ ‘Black Panther’ and ‘Get Out.’”
Jenkins on losing Best Director but still winning:“I have mixed emotions. It’s cool to be here now a year later because all the things I felt like I wanted to do heading into the ceremony, I did. We went and made ‘If Beale Street Could Talk,’ and we’re making ‘Underground Railroad‘ at Amazon. Those were things that were going to happen whether we lost or won. And for two minutes, we lost. And in those two minutes, I was still self-satisfied because I knew I’m going to go off and do these things, you know? Winning or losing is not gonna take any of those things off the table.
Peele on his doubts about ”Get Out”: “Oh, I didn’t know that they’d even make [the film]. [Laughs.] So, when I finally got to, ‘This movie’s getting made,’ I was like, ‘Okay, okay, well, if it ever gets released—which, we’ll see—it’s going to do something special.’ But from a business standpoint, I knew if I gave the Black audience the movie that they’ve been yelling for my whole life, that would be big. And I knew that if I gave the horror audience—another loyal fan base—a movie that they hadn’t seen in a while, a throwback piece to some of film lovers’ favorite horror movies, then that would be something. And then I just hoped everybody else would come together.
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