There’s almost always at least one upset at the Academy Awards. In 2017 for example, it was Moonlight scoring Best Picture – with the award being accidentally given to La La Land before the correction came through. That win left many ecstatic – a film about Black masculinity winning the biggest award at the Oscars, directed by a Black man and featuring a stellar black cast? A huge win for progress.

This year, Green Book won Best Picture. Again, it was a shock – Roma and The Favourite were hot contenders, as well as A Star Is Born. But this time, the shock was coupled with a disappointment for many.

Black KkKlansman director Spike Lee was first to express his disappointment, attempting to walk out of the theatre after the announcement, then telling press after the show that “refs made a bad call”.

Then social media followed. The general conversation online argued that the film was a look at the Black experience through the eyes of white people and had a soft approach to racism – offering an easily digestible take on race relations for white people looking to assuage guilt.

There was also the film’s production itself. It was written by Nick Vallelonga, who was the son of white driver Tony “Lip” Vallelonga, the protagonist of the film, a man who was paid to escort Black concert pianist Dr Don Shirley on a concert tour of America’s South. However, Dr. Shirley’s family have criticised the script, saying it amounted to a “symphony of lies” in an interview with Shadow & Act. They went on to argue that the film depicted Dr Shirley as “embarrassed by his blackness” – something that was particularly offensive to them considering Shirley was active in the Civil Rights movement of the 60s, not to mention close with Dr Martin Luther King.

The family also weren’t consulted or contacted at all during the writing of the script or production of the film.

Considering two films (Black KkKlansman, Black Panther) that were widely praised for portraying the Black experience from the perspective of Black people (and featuring black men and women behind the scenes, forming the films) were also up for Best Picture, it made Green Book winning all the more controversial.

Image: Universal Pictures