Oscar controversy stirs up conversation in Austin

The controversy is growing over of the lack of diversity in this year's Oscar nominees and it's making it's way to Austin.

Home to a diverse group of artists, the city boasts its own Oscar winners, including actors Matthew McConaughey and Sandra Bullock, as well as director Richard Linklater.

So you can imagine there is no shortage of opinion here. Winston Williams, the Executive Director of the Capital City Black Film Festival sent FOX 7 the below statement:

The recent announcement by Jada Pinkett Smith regarding possibly boycotting the Oscars.  I encourage people of all races to watch more Black films; especially the independent ones.  Then I believe they will see the wide range stories and creativity that exists in our culture.  Mrs. Smith simply asked the question, is it time… And the answer is “yes,” it is time for films by Black filmmakers or with Black actors in leading roles to be acknowledged, appreciated and respected without having to beg for that recognition.  AND… it is also time for Blacks to create the avenues by which those films are honored.

The Capital City Black Film Festival exists to provide that stage for these films and filmmakers to be recognized while some segments of the world continues to grow into that appreciation.  As Martin Luther King said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”  So, we will continue to speak out with our dollars, our presence and our voices.  Join us!"

Kevin Gant, a long-time fixture on Austin's arts scene is also weighing in. An african american  musician, Gant was the subject of a celebrated 2011 documentary about his life.

"This is the only thing i have," he says referring to his music, "it's still here, it's not going anywhere."
 
Today he's using his voice and his guitar, to join the chorus riffing on the Oscars.

"I saw Spike Lee's name trending on twitter and i immediately saw him, and Jada Pinkett Smith were boycotting," he says about the inspiration behind his latest song, "I Am Black Oscar."

Gant isn't turning a blind eye to the lack of diversity over this year's nominees but, he says of the outrage that's gone viral, "if you are in line for an Oscar, yes, but most of us aren't, by the millions, and we still have voices."

Voices he says that have the ability to continue to speak loudly.

"Everybody that I grew up with, everybody that I cut my teeth with," he adds strumming his guitar, "are independent artists that are trying to make it through, and the message that I have for them is you can't let that deter you or see it as a deterrent."

With the explosion of social media and other platforms, Gant isn't so sure how much longer Tinsletown's biggest night will be relevant.

"Nowadays things are changing so rapidly, the major studio heads have no idea what's about to happen. It's hard to compete with streaming services, and people shooting movies with IPhones, they don't even need budgets anymore."

And the 53-year old hopes Hollywood's heavyweights will focus on the bigger picture, instead of a tiny award.

"The important thing right now is the voice," he says, adding, "we don't need to be at the Oscars and if you do get to the Oscars, it's because of the people that are inspired by your art, they can't stop that."

Gant says he will be watching the show this year because he wants to tune in to see what Chris Rock will say when he hosts. He hopes the comedian doesn't boycott, because he says he knows Rock won't hold back, and it could be a good thing to keep the conversation going.

 


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