When comedian Chris Rock hosted the Oscars ceremony last year, his opening monologue addressed the elephant in the room: the whitewashing in Hollywood. Naturally, as most of the attendees were white, only a minority was able to laugh at Chris Rock’s jokes, which was the point of it all, anyway. They were supposed to feel uncomfortable, the finger was pointed at them. It was as effective as a callout-post; everyone is offended, but no one can deny the truth. And why should they, anyway? Hollywood has shaped and made itself to an industry that is as bland and as white as paper.
The racism isn’t apparently sinister, it’s the norm for scriptwriters to imagine white people as their leads while people of color are in the background. As fans and actors of color all over the world have pointed this out more than once, there seems to be more revenue with a diverse cast, Hollywood is now in a zugzwang, even if it’s just for the money behind it. Whether or not this is a start to finish #OscarsSoWhite is up in the air, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Below are a selection of movies that feature actors of colour, and were directed or written by people of colour. Who knows, maybe we will see some of these win an Academy Award or two.
This timeless story of human self-discovery and connection, Moonlight chronicles the life of a young black man from childhood to adulthood as he struggles to find his place in the world while growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami. Starring a majority black cast with a black gay lead and a black Director / Screenwriter, Moonlight seems to be the film that will break #OscarsSoWhite.
2. Queen of Katwe
Queen of Katwe is a biographical sports drama that depicts the life of Phiona Mutesi, a Ugandan girl living in a slum in Katwe who sees her world rapidly change after being introduced to the game of chess. This film stars David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o, Madina Nalwanga and was directed by the Indian American filmmaker Mira Nair.
The latest Disney CG film is set in ancient Polynesia. When a terrible curse incurred by the Demigod Maui reaches an impetuous Chieftain’s daughter’s island, she answers the Ocean’s call to seek out the Demigod to set things right. This is the first Polynesian Disney princess and Moana as well as her deutagonist Maui are voiced by people with Polynesian descent.
4. The Handmaiden / 아가씨
The Handmaiden is a 2016 South Korean erotic psychological thriller film directed by Park Chan-wook. The thriller centers around a woman who is hired as a handmaiden to a Japanese heiress, but secretly she is involved in a plot to defraud her. It is inspired from the novel Fingersmith, however, the setting was changed from the Victorian era to Korea under Japanese colonial rule.
5. Suicide Squad
The 3rd installment in the DCEU centers around a secret government agency recruits some of the most dangerous incarcerated super-villains to form a defensive task force. Their first mission: save the world from the apocalypse. Whilst Suicide Squad did not receive the attention it wanted the film did have one of the most diverse casts out of a lot of recent superhero films, including Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Katana and El Diablo.
6. Rogue One
The prequel to A New Hope shows the Rebel Alliance makes a risky move to steal the plans for the Death Star, setting up the epic saga to follow. This cast is the most diverse in any Star Wars movie yet, with Mexican, Chinese, African-American and Pakistani actors!
7. Hidden Figures
Based on a true story! A team of African-American women provide NASA with important mathematical data needed to launch the program’s first successful space missions.The leading ladies are all black. And Kevin Costner made sure his character was actively supporting these ladies, which is extra cool.
8. The Fits
The Fits is an American psychological drama directed by Anna Rose Holmer. The Fits centers around an 11-year-old girl who joins a dance drill team at her local rec center but her newfound teammates and friends begin to suffer from terrifying episodes of fainting.
The premise surrounds a five-year-old Indian boy who gets lost on the streets of Calcutta, thousands of kilometers from home. He survives many challenges before being adopted by a couple in Australia and 25 years later, he sets out to find his lost family using Google Earth.
Starring both critically acclaimed actors, Viola Davis and Denzel Washington, this film centers around a working-class African-American father tries to raise his family in the 1950s, while coming to terms with the events of his life.
Happy watching! Here’s to hope that 2017 features a more diverse cast and movies overall, and has less whitewashing scandals.
Author: Elif Erdem
Keshav Kant, aka Mx. KantEven, is a med student tuned Executive Director of Off Colour!
You’ve probably seen her on Twitter and TikTok, both @MxKantEven, or caught her work on Off Colour's many channels.
From consulting on films & shows, manuscript review, conducting interviews, or hosting podcasts & panels, if there is some way to bring sensitivity and authenticity to diversity, inclusion and equity conversations, Keshav will be there.