David Oyelowo praises cultural shift since #OscarsSoWhite

The British actor said Get Out would not have received four nominations this year without the movement against racial bias.

David Oyelowo has celebrated the progress made since the #OscarsSoWhite movement, which was sparked by the snubbing of black actors including his performance in Selma.

The British actor said he was “taken aback” by the difference seen at the recent Academy Awards compared with two of three previous three years when all the acting nominees were white.

That was despite his critically acclaimed performance as civil rights leader Martin Luther King in the 2014 movie, which also did not get a nomination for director Ava DuVernay.

“So I’m just kind of taken aback by the fact that society, culture – certainly this industry – can shift so much,” Oyelowo, 41, told Variety’s Playback podcast.

“I know for a fact Get Out would not have been nominated for four Oscars pre-#OscarsSoWhite. So again that is something that I think points at progress.”

He said he was previously “reprimanded” by Academy members for wearing an “I can’t breathe” T-shirt highlighting the case of Eric Garner, a father who died after being restrained in a headlock by New York police.

This month’s awards were full of outrage over the sexual assault scandal engulfing Hollywood as well as over the nearly two million young migrants whose presence in America is threatened by the potential end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) programme which protects them.

“The literal phrase, excuse my French, was ‘why are they stirring shit’, and here we are three years on and you barely have a lapel big enough to pin all the badges of quite rightful protests, whether it’s Daca or Me Too or the gun situation,” the Oxford-born actor said.

He praised the presence in Hollywood of Black Panther, the superhero blockbuster led by black actors, and Get Out, which got Londoner Daniel Kaluuya a best actor nomination.

Neither films have a “white saviour character”, Oyelowo said, which he added was the reason Selma was attacked.

Both the 2015 and 2016 Oscars saw all 20 acting nominations go to white stars in what was perceived as a display of racial bias.

The backlash that ensued under the hashtag, which was started by activist April Reign, led to a membership overhaul to diversify the academy.

The 90th Oscars saw a more diverse list of nominees, though it received criticism for under-representing Hispanic people.

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