port of harlem magazine
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Spike Lee’s Best Director Nomination is Long Overdue

January 31 – February 13, 2019
spike lee

“People of color have a constant frustration of not being represented, or being misrepresented, and these images go around the world … I do not think there is going to be any substantial movement until people of color get into those gatekeeper positions of people who have a green-light vote. That is what it comes down to. We do not have a vote, and we are not at that table when it is decided what gets made and what does not get made.”
– Spike Lee

In 2015 and 2016, we in the Urban League Movement joined a movement against the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences embodied in the hashtag, “#OscarsSoWhite. At the time, the voting membership of the Academy was reported to be 94% white and 77% male.

As a result of the movement, the Academy pledged to double minority and women membership by 2020 and limited terms to 10 years for members who have not been active in the film industry.

Whether a direct result of these changes or not, Spike Lee’s long-awaited first-time nomination for Best Director is a welcome development, as is the nomination of his film, “BlacKkKlansman,” for Best Picture.

For his part, Lee believes his nomination would not have come about without #OscarsSoWhite. “What that campaign did, it made the Academy understand that they had to diversify their membership,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “The diversity of the voting members makes a difference.”

Lee previously was nominated for Best Screenplay for “Do The Right Thing,” and “4 Little Girls” received a Best Documentary Feature nomination, but this is the first time in his 30-year career he’s been acknowledged for his main contribution to American culture as a director of provocative and artistic feature films.
For his part, Lee believes his nomination would not have come about without #OscarsSoWhite.
It can be argued that many of the 30 films Lee has directed are as deserving of an Oscar as “BlacKkKlansman,” and many of them are destined to occupy their places in the canon of American cinema. But even though “BlacKkKlansman” is set in the early 1970s it is very much a film of our time – perhaps the film of our time. 

David Duke, the main villain of the story, is still very much a force in American politics today.  He is shown to use the resurrected phrase “America First!” popularized during the 2016 presidential campaign, and speaks of making America “great again.” The film’s central question of whether social change must be effected within the system or outside it resonates today.

The recognition of Lee’s talent by the Academy is long overdue, and we congratulate him on his achievement.
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