Viola Davis explaining how Black women are failed by Hollywood goes viral after Oscars snub

A side by side image of Viola Davis wearing a blue turtleneck and blue jacket on the red carpet at the AFI luncheon next to a screenshot from her movie The Woman King.

A video of Viola Davis explaining how Black women are being failed by the film industry is going viral after she was snubbed in the 2023 Oscar nominations.

Davis’s 2022 film The Woman King is about the historic all-female warrior unit the Agojie, and how they worked to protect the African Kingdom of Dahomey.

It’s led by and stars a cast of Black women, including director Gina Prince-Bythewood.

But despite glowing reviews and nods at the BAFTAs and Critics Choice Awards, it received zero Oscar nominations.

Speaking as part of a recent roundtable hosted by The Hollywood Reporter, Davis explained the struggle of trying to convince executives that a film can be successful if the intended audience isn’t primarily white.

“Everything is a fight, and I’ll tell you the ultimate fight,” she said in the clip.

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“You have a film, The Woman King, based on the Agojie tribe, and it’s got to be test screened and it’s got to mean something to white males, white females, and Black males.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s reaching 98 per cent of Black females.”

“So how do you reach the white male audience?” she asked. “And how do you make people feel like, if I can’t reach the white male audience, it doesn’t mean that the movie can’t have some commercial value?”

“It needed to be said,” one person wrote in response to the clip. “She already knew they were going to snub the movie.”

Another added: “Without a doubt the fact this US box office topping movie didn’t get broader, better, longer, higher profile distribution is plain old racism and misogyny.”

Ever since the Oscar nominations were announced earlier this week, conversations have continued on how the Academy is failing Black women.

Chinonye Chukwu, who wrote and directed the critically acclaimed biographical drama Till, criticised the industry’s “unabashed misogyny towards Black women” after the film failed to receive any Oscar nominations.

Till follows Mamie Till-Mobley (Danielle Deadwyler) as she fights for justice following the brutal, racist lynching of her son Emmett Till in 1955. 

Many industry insiders expected Deadwyler to receive a nomination for Best Actress for her portrayal, as she has at the BAFTAs and the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Writing on Instagram, Chukwu said: “We live in a world and work in industries that are so aggressively committed to upholding whiteness and perpetuating unabashed misogyny towards Black women.

“And yet,” she continued, “I am forever in gratitude for the greatest lesson of my life – regardless of any challenges or obstacles, I will always have the power to cultivate my own joy, and it is this joy that will continue to be one of my greatest forms of resistance.”

Alongside the caption, Chukwu posted a photo of herself alongside civil rights activist Myrlie Evers-Williams, who is portrayed in the film.

Actor Whoopi Goldberg, who co-stars and co-produced the film, also addressed the snub while hosting US talk show The View earlier this week.

“Before we start off, we just want to celebrate the talented artists and filmmakers who were nominated for Oscars this morning,” she said.

“Unfortunately, my film, Till, was not nominated, but we do want to congratulate all the nominees because many of them have been here and it’s wonderful to say congrats, so that’s what we’ll do.”

The Oscars take place on 13 March, with Everything Everywhere All At Once leading the nominations.

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