The 2017 Academy Awards saw a diverse range of winners and nominees, only two years after the start of the #OscarsSoWhite campaign

By Adam Carlson
February 27, 2017 12:54 AM
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Just two years after the #OscarsSoWhite controversy first highlighted the Academy Awards’ diversity problems, Sunday’s ceremony saw a varied slate of winners and nominees — concluding with an upset win for Best Picture, with Moonlight triumphingover La La Land.

And in a frequently political show, diversity was a topic addressed by stars onstage and around the world.

Mahershala Ali, the first winner of the night, was also the first Muslim in the Academy’s history to win the Best Supporting Actor award. He took home the trophy for his role in Moonlight.

Not long after, Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini and Christopher Nelson took the stage for their makeup and hairstyling work on Suicide Squad, and they spoke in support of immigration.

“This is for all the immigrants!” Bertolazzi, an Italian native, said in his acceptance speech.

Acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi was even more pointed in his remarks. Though he declined to attend this year’s Oscars, he asked Iranian-American engineer Anousheh Ansari to accept the award for Best Foreign Language Film, for The Salesman, on his behalf.

Onstage, Ansari read a statement from Farhadi explaining that his decision was in protest of President Donald Trump’s controversial ban on immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries.

“I’m sorry I’m not with you tonight,” Farhadi said in his statement. “My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and those of other six nations whom have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the U.S.”

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“Filmmakers can turn their cameras to capture shared human qualities and break stereotypes of various nationalities and religions, Farhadi continued. “They create empathy between us and others. An empathy we need today more than ever.”

Though Denzel Washington lost the Best Actor trophy to Manchester by the Sea‘s Casey Affleck, his Fences costar Viola Davis earned the Best Supporting Actress award.

Moonlight, too, won multiple awards. Its writer-director, Barry Jenkins, snagged the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. In his acceptance speech, he gave a message to the unseen.

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“All you people out there who feel like there’s no mirror for you, that your life is not reflected, the Academy has your back,” Jenkins said. “The ACLU has your back. We have your back. And over the next four years, we will not leave you alone. We will not forget you.”

It was a message echoed by the Hidden Figures cast earlier in the night, when they appeared alongside the 98-year-old retired NASA mathematician whose life partially inspired the film.

Speaking about the power of movies to unearth untold stories, Figures‘ star Taraji P. Henson then introduced Katherine Johnson, whom she portrayed, as a “true NASA and American hero.”

Industry experts and outside observers alike noted the 2017 Oscars’ wider selections, at least in contrast to choices in recent years, but said such progress was not an instant cure-all for broader, deeper problems.

“Let’s remember that #OscarsSoWhite is not just about race, and definitely not just about the black race,” April Reign, the campaign’s creator, told Entertainment Weekly in January. “While we’ve had some forward movement, there is a lot of work that needs to be done.”