Monday, 25 May 2009

Fighting Prejudice - one movie at a time

Originally posted 26 February 2009.

Many people were not looking forward to another ultra-extravagant Oscars ceremony, seemingly at odds with worldwide economic hardship. It seemed tasteless to bathe ourselves in the fantasy world of the movies, but as I watched the spectacle last night, I was humbled by the sensitive way the world’s most prestigious awards ceremony used star power to highlight modern struggles against oppression, and removed the soft focus lens at last.

I can’t recall a recent Oscar’s ceremony that has been so wholeheartedly fair in its choice of films and individuals to honour. To award Kate Winslet for her portrayal of a potential Nazi sympathiser took courage. Slumdog Millionaire may have won many awards, but Danny Boyle nobly used the podium to allow us all to consider the grim reality of Mumbai slumlife without judgement, and sensitively coupled the story with joyous music taking inspiration from Bollywood, an equally successful movie industry.

However, it was possibly most courageous of the Academy to recognise Sean Penn’s brilliant portrayal of political activist Harvey Milk, when within the same American state that the ceremony is held, it is currently illegal for gay couples to wed. Penn’s impassioned speech was heartfelt, yet stinging enough to raise a few embarrassed blushes from those who would seek to deny such happiness to all.

We shouldn’t forget the way the ceremony seamlessly honoured success from all over the world, praising Spanish, Australian, Japanese and French winners alike. Mainstream Hollywood has finally grasped that non-English language films can compete for all of the awards.

And to top it all, even Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie seemed to be getting along famously!

The Oscars may not bring about world peace, but by addressing prejudice through a medium that we can all appreciate, their influence abounds.

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