Creed director Ryan Coogler, Selma director Ava DuVernay, Janelle Monae and other Hollywood celebrities had big plans for Oscar night.
But they had nothing to do with Sunday night’s 88th Annual Academy Awards. Coogler and company were 2,300 miles away in Flint, Mich., participating in a benefit for residents affected by the town’s lead-contaminated water crisis.
The event is being held by Blackout for Human Rights, a collective of artists, filmmakers, musicians and activists who work together to address human rights violations against Americans in the U.S.
DuVernay, Monae and others tweeted Tuesday about their involvement in the event, which is being called #JusticeForFlint.
Hosted by comedian Hannibal Buress, the free show served as both a fundraiser and an awareness campaign, complete with performances and testimonials. The goal for #JusticeForFlint is to listen to the city’s residents when they say what they need and raise funds to give it to them.
Coogler’s Creed is a favourite to win the best supporting actor Oscar for Sylvester Stallone’s reprise of his iconic Rocky character at Sunday’s Oscars. It was the sole nomination for the critically acclaimed film, which many saw as yet another example of how the film academy is out of step with today’s audiences.
DuVernay called the Flint crisis “one of the most egregious human rights violations in American history” in a statement. Coogler said the benefit “will give voice to the members of the community who were victims of the choices of people in power who are paid to protect them.”
While Oscars host Chris Rock delivered his monologue (and made reference to how “there’s nothing left to protest anymore”), American civil rights activist Deray McKesson sent out this tweet:
Controversial movie director Michael Moore, who was born and raised in Flint, tweeted his support for the event:
The following celebrities were expected to attend the benefit:
“No,” she responded.
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“We are basically saying on this night there are other things going on around issues of justice and dignity,” DuVernay said. “It’s not lost on us, and it would be disingenuous for us to say that we’re not aware that the Oscars are happening that night. We’re a part of the industry. We love the industry, and many of our friends… are nominated.”
This year’s Academy Awards are again embroiled in a diversity crisis stemming from a second straight year of all-white acting nominees, now symbolized by the Twitter hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. Outrage over the Oscars’ all-white slates has included calls for a boycott of the ceremony from Hollywood notables like Will Smith and wife Jada Pinkett Smith, and it prompted the Academy to announce sweeping changes to their membership rules.
With files from The Associated Press