On Feb. 21, exactly one week before the Academy Awards, the American Black Film Festival Honors will recognize the best television shows and movies of 2015 which feature a lead actor of African descent. The announcement of the nominees for this year’s honors comes after a week of charged discussion about the conspicuous absence of Oscar nominees of color for a second consecutive year, and decisions by would-be Oscar attendees Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith not to attend the ceremony.
The mission of the ABFF Honors is “to celebrate Black culture by recognizing individuals, movies and television shows that have had a significant impact on American entertainment, as well as those who are proponents of championing diversity and inclusion in Hollywood.” In addition to the nominees listed below, the event, to be hosted by Mike Epps, will honor Diahann Carroll with the Hollywood Legacy Award and producer Will Packer with the Distinguished ABFF Alumni Award. There will also be honors for Excellence in the Arts and a Rising Star, still to be announced.
ABFF President and CEO Jeff Friday, who also founded the Honors, echoed some of the sentiments Pinkett Smith conveyed when explaining her decision to skip the Oscars. “I have always believed that the Black artists in Hollywood would be more empowered if they were more committed to supporting one another, attending celebrations of their culture and relying less on mainstream validation of their work,” Friday said in a press release.
Several of the ABFF’s film nominees, including Straight Outta Compton, Creed and Beasts of No Nation, have been cited as examples of stories about people of color the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences may have overlooked when voting on Oscar nominees. Many believe that actors like Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation) and Will Smith (Concussion) delivered performances worthy of an Oscar nod.
Below are this year’s ABFF Honors:
Film of the Year
Beasts of No Nation
Straight Outta Compton
Television Show of the Year
Being Mary Jane
How to Get Away With Murder