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Black Actors Rack Up at Sundance, SAG Awards

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By Staff Reports

Most of us remember him from The Great Debaters as the rebellious Henry Lowe and the charming Kaz Nicol from Beyond the Lights, and now Hollywood has no choice but to recognize him and his hard work.

Nate Parker, wrote, directed, produced and starred in “The Birth of a Nation,” the critically acclaimed Sundance film that tells the story of Nat Turner, a precocious boy who is later deemed a leader by his African elders, but grew up as a prisoner of slavery in Virginia.

“I’ve poured everything that I am into making it,” Turner said following an uproarious standing ovation. “I made this film for one reason, with hope of creating change agents, that people could watch this film and be affected.”

The film comes at a time where there is much debate about African Americans in the Hollywood film industry. Amid the controversy, Parker took not only the U.S. Drama Grand Jury Prize, but also the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival.

“Thank you, Sundance, for creating a platform for us to grow, in spite of what the rest of Hollywood is doing,” Parker said.

That was the icing on the cake after Fox Searchlight scooped the movie up for a cool $17.5 million, and the film quickly became the must-see of the festival, commanding reported $100 offers for tickets.

The film was difficult to make, Parker said, and not just because of the painful roles for both Black and white actors.

“Anytime we’re dealing with our history, specifically with slavery, I’ve found it’s been desperately sanitized, so there’s a resistance to dealing with this material,” Parker said. “The original D.W. Griffiths, the original ‘Birth of a Nation,’ was the foundation of our industry. We’re built on sand in this industry. We just are. And if we don’t give it attention, we’re going to have these issues, this racist infrastructure that we’re going to have to deal with from generation to generation.”

While Parker racked up in Park City, Utah, actor Idris Elba also accepted two awards at the Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles.

Elba won for his supporting performance in the Netflix child soldier drama, “Beasts of No Nation,” and for his lead performance in the BBC miniseries, “Luther.”

“Ladies and gentleman, welcome to diverse TV,” Elba said in his third trip on stage as presenter.

Joining Elba as winners at the SAG Awards were Queen Latifah for most outstanding female performance in a TV movie or miniseries in HBO’s “Bessie Smith,” Uzo Aduba accepted her second SAG Award for best actress in a comedy in the Netflix original series, “Orange is the New Black,” and Viola Davis for outstanding performance by a female actor in a drama series in “How to Get Away with Murder.”

Davis reminded that “diversity is not a trending topic.”

“All of the actors of color I know don’t place any limitations on themselves,” said Davis. “So regardless what is going on with the academy, what is going on with Hollywood, they will find a way to be excellent. We always have and we always will.”

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