Every year it’s the same ol’ dance—there’s a major award ceremony nominations announcement, congratulatory messages are thrown about, quickly followed by snubbing outrage. That tradition was no different following the recent nominations announcement for the 2020 Golden Globes.
According to Variety, Queen & Slim director Melina Matsoukas didn’t seem to be too surprised that her film didn’t receive a single nomination by the elite academy made up of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA).
“We held three screenings for the HFPA and almost no members attended,” Matsoukas recalled. “For me, it’s reflective of their voting body. It’s not reflective of the society in which we live in, or the industry as it stands today. They don’t value the stories that represent all of us, and those stories are so often disregarded and discredited, as are their filmmakers.”
Granted, in addition to the scheduled in-person screenings, eligible voting members of various academies, juries and guilds are often sent screeners and digital links to view films at home (Shout-out to the smorgasboard of screeners and scripts The Root staff receives as members of the WGA East, by the way. Shawties got gifts!)
The film’s distributor, Universal Pictures, reportedly sent out 60,000 DVD copies for consideration. The HFPA denied Matsoukas’ claim that voters refused to watch Queen & Slim. “The HFPA maintains that Queen & Slim was in the conversation amongst the membership,” the organization told Variety in a statement. Universal did not comment in response to Variety’s request.
“It’s extremely discouraging. It’s extremely infuriating. And it just represents an archaic system that is full of people who don’t value us,” Matsoukas added.
This particular controversy surrounding a black film isn’t novel with some Academy voters receiving backlash leading up to the 86th Academy Awards for not watching Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave. According to the Huffington Post, at least two anonymous voters admitted that they did not, in fact, watch the film, but voted for it anyway.
Now, this resulted in the opposite effect of snubbing as 12 Years A Slave went on to win Best Picture that year, but there is still something notable to be said about academy voters choosing not to watch black-led or black-created films simply because they assume they can’t connect to it. If there is a surefire way to get recognized by these historically exclusive academies, apparently black narratives must center around slavery (see, Harriet). It’s like clockwork. Awards season is summed up as follows: War movies, slave movies, biopics, Meryl Streep. Rinse, repeat.
And the not-so-thinly-veiled racism doesn’t stop there. Matsoukas also shared a particular incident where she experienced a micro-aggression with an HFPA member.
Matsoukas then described an experience she had earlier this year, while attending a HFPA fundraiser before she’d finished the final cut of her movie. It was an event that she’d entered into with some trepidation.
“I was warned by three different people that I may be harassed or spoken to in an inappropriate way, which I was,” she said.
As she recalls, an HFPA member, whom she declines to name, approached her with a movie idea. “And they used a very archaic term in the pitch, and I found it quite offensive and disrespectful to me as a woman of color,” she said.
As for Matsoukas’ direct message to the HFPA? “Your time is over. I believe they’ve created an unsafe work environment,” she concluded.