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At last night’s Academy Awards, the race to nab the Oscar for Best Film was generally agreed to be a two horse one. The biggest gong of the night was either going to go to Alphonso Cuarón’s Gravity, or Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, and many of us didn’t really mind which – they’re both brilliant films in their very different ways, each one worthy of the honour.
In the end, that honour went to 12 Years a Slave. McQueen’s masterpiece had already picked up the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture, and also the BAFTA for Best Film (star Chiwetel Ejiofor also snagged the Best Actor BAFTA). In the 86 year history of the Oscars, no movie by a black filmmaker has ever won in the Best Picture category before, and only a very few have been nominated (for example The Color Purple, produced by Quincy Jones, and Lee Daniels’ Precious).
In the press room following the win, McQueen commented “Obviously, it’s a mark of development. It’s just obviously a progression. The background characters are now in the foreground and their lives are being recognized in a way, more ever than before. I think people are ready for this narrative. People want to look at this history. If we don’t know our past, we’ll never know our future.”
Meanwhile, Gravity’s Alphonso Cuarón was not left out of proceedings, becoming the first Latino winner of the Best Director Oscar. Gravity won seven Oscars in total, making it the biggest overall winner at this year’s awards. Cuarón also took home awards for directing at both the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs.
Well done to the Academy for starting to move with the times – now, if we could only see a few more female faces around the place as well, that would be lovely. As Cate Blanchett said during her acceptance speech (she picked up Best Actress for Blue Jasmine), many people within the film industry are “…foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them and, in fact, they earn money. The world is round, people.”