The Independent Spirit Awards Showcased the Diversity the Oscars Missed
Over the weekend, an award show for the movie industry brought up important points about how to tackle diversity in Hollywood. A day before Stacey Dash walked onstage at the Oscars for a moment more uncomfortable than getting caught masturbating by your grandparents, another award show was doing diversity right—and making history.
The 31st annual Film Independent Spirit Awards, which fell on February 27th, felt like a weird utopia of how movie award shows should look, from the winners down to the hosts. The lesser-known ceremony focuses on indie films (or those made for less than $20 million) and was hosted by SNL powerhouse Kate McKinnon and Pakistani-American comedian Kumail Nanjiani, who dug deep into the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. “The nominees [today] are more diverse than a brochure for a liberal arts college,” quipped Nanjiani during the opening monologue.
By the time Spotlight had (predictably) capped off a night of wins with the Best Picture award, history had already been made in other categories. Three of the four acting categories were won by black people, with Brie Larson serving as a worthy exception for her gripping role in Room. Even though Larson took home the Best Female Lead award, the category still featured black transgender actress Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, nominated for her role in Tangerine. Rodriguez’s costar Mya Taylor was nominated for Best Supporting Female and won the award, which made her the first ever transgender actress to win a major acting award—a refreshing surprise given, Hollywood’s problematic trend of recognizing cisgender actors for playing trans characters. It was a huge moment for transgender actors, and was especially noteworthy for Taylor, who was discovered on the streets of Los Angeles by Tangerine director Sean Baker. “There is transgender talent,” Taylor said as she called out Hollywood in her speech. “There’s very beautiful transgender talent, so you better get out there and put it in your next movie.”
The Tangerine star wasn’t the only one making waves at the Independent Spirt Awards, as both Best Male Lead and Best Supporting Male went to black actors. In a major show of power for the streaming service’s foray into original filmmaking, two stars of Netflix’s Beasts of No Nation took home statues. Our lowkey dream man Idris Elba won for his supporting role in the film, while Abraham Attah became one of the youngest Best Male acting winners—and made us feel old as shit when we realized he was born in 2001. Altogether, the winners, hosts, and nominees at the ceremony proved that diversity in Hollywood does exist, at least within the indie film circuit. Your move, Oscars.
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Images via Kevork Djansezian.