Sunday, February 01, 2009

Glory: African Americans in Cinema (4)

As I countdown the number of African Americans honored for acting, there has been a pattern of the Academy to wait a few decades' in between the them handing the coveted award to an African American actor.

Could this be due to the roles in which African Americans are given, or is it because those voting on Academy Awards do not know how to recognize good acting when they see it?

Who knows?

All I know is that Whoppie Goldberg and Oprah Whinfey were both passed over in their portrayal of Celie and Sophia (respectively) in The Color Purple, in the mid 80’s and the world does not see another African American awarded an Oscar for acting until the movie Glory (1989).

This film follows the rue story of an all African American Civil War unit, led by Col. Robert Gould Shaw, played by Matthew Broderick. Shaw, an abolitionist, struggles against racial prejudice in many forms while fighting for The Union.

In one scene, Shaw attempts to get supplies for his troops and is shunned and battered by other white soldiers for commanding an all Black unit.

Not being shaken by the adverse sentiment, Col. Shaw goes on to convey to his troops the importance of appearance and being a better and more qualified than the other soldiers just to be considered equal.

The climax depicts the Union's attack on Fort Wagner, which was spearheaded by Col Shaw’s troops, who took heavy losses and was hailed and highly decorated for its bravery.

Denzel Washington played a mis-fited soldier in Col. Shaw’s unit and went on to be awarded an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, making him the fourth African American in Academy history to be awarded the coveted award.

Click here for the trailer.

No comments: