Oscars 2023: “Till” director Chinonye Chukwu calls for racism

Till director Chinonye Chukwu was outspoken in responding to the Oscars’ failure to nominate films by and starring black women on Tuesday.

“We live in a world and work in industries that are so aggressive in maintaining whiteness and maintaining unabashed misogyny towards black women,” she wrote on Instagram in a caption to a photo of her with civil rights icon Myrlie Evers- Williams.

One of the biggest issues to emerge from Tuesday’s Oscar nominations was the blatant omission of films by and starring black women, including the snub of “Till” star Danielle Deadwyler, who was widely expected to be credited with for her performance Human rights activist Mamie Till-Mobley would be nominated for best actress as a civilian. Additionally, despite its impressive scale and scope, the critically acclaimed historical epic The Woman King, directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, failed to earn a single nomination in any category—not even the technical or craftsmanship categories. Those snubs include Prince-Bythewood, star and producer Viola Davis, and every actor in the black female cast of the film.

In general, no black actors were nominated for leading roles. Among the 20 nominees for acting, Angela Bassett was the only black woman nominated for her supporting role in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – 30 years after earning her first (and so far only) Oscar nomination as Tina Turner in What’s Love” must have something to do with it.”

The Oscars have a miserable record of overlooking black stories in general and not nominating black women in particular. Davis and Bassett are among the few black women to have previously received Oscar nominations for leading roles. And in the 95-year history of the Oscars, only one black woman has ever won the Best Actress Oscar: Halle Berry for the 2001 film Monster’s Ball.

Black women behind the camera have never been nominated for Best Director. That embarrassing streak continued Tuesday as no woman was nominated to direct.

"Add to" Director Chinonye Chukwu and star Danielle Deadwyler during a screening of the film in Chicago in October.
“Till” director Chinonye Chukwu and star Danielle Deadwyler during a screening of the film in Chicago in October.

Barry Crowbar via Getty Images

Chukwu previously directed the acclaimed independent drama Clemency, starring Alfre Woodard. After winning the Grand Jury Prize when it premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, it was also overlooked by many awards panels late in the year.

In her post, she referenced the ways in which many black women and other artists from underrepresented communities have often had to create their own opportunities in spaces where they have been historically excluded.

“I am forever grateful for the greatest lesson of my life — no matter what challenges or obstacles I face, I will always have the power to cultivate my own joy, and that joy will continue to be one of my greatest forms of resilience,” she wrote.

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