The 9th Annual African American Film Critics Awards (or AAFCA) were held last night at the Taglyan Cultural Complex in Hollywood to honor (mostly) Black folks who knocked it out of the park this year in film and television.
Before I get to the winners of said awards, there’s something that needs to be said. I’ve heard more than a few people say “these type” of award ceremonies, meaning ceremonies that celebrate a culture’s contribution to an industry or society, are unnecessary at best, and divisive at worst. But there’s a reason “these types” of events are important and still need to happen. Hollywood, for all of its liberal claims, has had a big problem with cultural inclusion. It was only two years ago that the #OscarsSoWhite campaign on Twitter was started for this very reason. Not to say things aren’t changing or won’t get better eventually, but until it does, “these type” of events honoring and putting a spotlight on filmmakers and actors/actresses of color are very relevant.
“Hollywood, for all of its liberal claims, has had a big problem with cultural inclusion…”
With that said, this event was very inclusive and encouraging for all who attended regardless of background. Okay, so let’s get on with the festivities. The night was a huge showing of Hollywood’s “who’s who.” Everybody from cinematic heavyweights like Ava Duvernay and Jordan Peele, to up-and-coming stars like A Wrinkle In Time’s, Storm Reid and Detroit’s, Algee Smith. Jordan Peele’s monsters hit, Get Out, was the obvious big the big winner of the evening. Taking home the statue in:
Best Picture: Jordan Peele
Richard Wesley Screenplay Award: Jordan Peele
Best Director: Jordan Peele
Best Actor: Daniel Kaluuya
When accepting his win for Best Picture, Peele had this to say about his inspiration for the film: “I’ve seen the documentary, ’13th, and I realized at that point that there were people getting locked up and being taken out of the world and taken from their families for holding less weed than I was smoking when I was writing this movie. I realize that’s darkly funny, but I began to cry and from that moment forward, this movie meant so much more than just a fun way to provoke conversation. It became a cry for justice.”
This speech really drove home why many African Americans who had seen the film, felt so insulted when the Golden Globes stuck Get Out in the “Best Comedy” category.
Ava Duvernay also received top honors with her win for Queen Sugar, who was then joined on stage with fellow castmates: Dawn Lyen-Gardner, Kofie Siriboe, Dondre Whitfield, and Omar Dorsey. Later that night she took home the award for “Innovator of Year!” Though sick with the flu, she pulled it together long enough to give a pretty funny, yet inspiring, speech about putting in the hard work and sacrificing for your dreams.
The biggest surprise of the night though came with the win of Frances McDormand (who isn’t Black obviously) for Best Actress in the critically acclaimed film, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri. Her win was met with loud cheers and a standing ovation from the crowd! Taking the stage, she stated that “This was the award show she had been looking forward to the most!” Whether she really meant that or was pandering remains to be seen, but it was well-received by the audience anyway.
Another big moment came from Rob Reiner who received the “Stanley Kramer Award For Social Justice!” And like expected, he didn’t pull back his words, and aimed his speech straight at Donald Trump. “Donald Trump gets into office and there are good people on both sides in Charlottesville?! There are people coming from shithole countries?! And it goes on and on. And you see the people he hires that are in his administration and we see that this has now become the last battle of the Civil War.”
Reiner was also celebrated for his long body of film work, including his start starring as the character Michael Stivic on the Norman Lear hit, “All In The Family.”
Here are some of the other winners:
Best Supporting Actress: Tiffany Haddish
Best Comedy: Girls Trip
Best TV Comedy Series: Black-ish
Best Supporting Actor: Laurence Fishburne
Best Ensemble: Detroit
Best Animated: Coco
Best New Media: Mudbound
Best Independent: Crown Heights
The AAFCA 2018 was an intimate and inspiring event. Even among the ridiculous the talent level in the room, you could really feel the genuine love and adoration these peers had for each other. It felt a lot more like a family get-together, than an award ceremony. But, if I’m being totally honest (and I usually am), there is a part of me that does hope we can get to a point in our existence where these type of “special awards” aren’t needed any longer, and we can just judge an artist on their work and talent alone. Until then, I look forward to going back in 2019.