Tuesday, August 16News For London

Chiwetel Ejiofor: First black actor to win The Richard Harris Award at The British Independent Film Awards


Actor Chiwetel Ejiofor. Photo credit: liveforfilms

Chiwetel Ejiofor is the first black man to receive the Richard Harris Award at the 2015 Moët British Independent Film Awards last night. The award is granted in recognition of outstanding contribution to British film by an actor. 

The Richard Harris Award, named for the great British actor Richard Harris, was introduced in 2002 and follows the same rules as that of the BAFTA fellowship except for being exclusively British. Awarding those that have gone above and beyond with their contribution to cinema.

Chiwetel Ejiofor, the British-Nigerian actor from London holds an impressive filmography including the award winning film 12 Years A Slave. His acting talents have previously gone unrecognised having only won one prestigious award.

Chiwetel won a BAFTA for Best Leading Actor in 12 Years A Slave and he has been nominated for three Golden Globes, one Oscar and two BAFTAs, according to IMDb.

The Moët British Independent Film Awards have finally decided to give Chiwetel some much deserved recognition. The award being one of the best the organisation offers has given the black actor recognition for his outstanding contribution.

Past winners of the award have included John Hurt, David Thewlis, Bob Hoskins, Jim Broadbent, Daniel Day-Lewis, Helena Bonham-Carter, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Julie Walters and most recently Emma Thompson. Whilst all of the actor/actresses previously listed are undoubtedly deserving of the award, the list of previous winners is far from diverse.

Black actors have in the past, been ignored by awarding organisations. Selma the 2014 biographical drama featuring a campaign by Martin Luther King Jr. was also for the most part ignored by award ceremonies.

The film was well received at the box office, grossing $52million as of April this year and yet it went unrecognised at the majority of mainstream awards. An Oscar was granted to the film it was awarded for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures.

The film also received a nomination for Best Picture, a well deserved recognition for the critically acclaimed film but the lead actor David Oyelowo and director Steve McQueen were completely ignored. Normally, it would be expected that a film nominated for Best Picture would indeed then result in Best Director and Best Actor nominations for those involved. It cannot be denied that David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr. gave a performance worthy of an Oscar let alone a mere nomination.

An American film critic and writer, TK presents a relevant quote from Facebook saying “Selma is the Magical Negro of the Oscar Nominations — a Best Movie that just manifested out of the ether with (apparently) no director, screenwriter, cinematographer or actors.”

Things may change in the future however, with John Boyega set to star in the highly anticipated Star Wars: Force Awakens and more and more black actors gaining nominations like Chiwetel, diversity may yet be seen.