SUPERHERO film Black Panther, heralded for its mainly black cast and vibrant celebration of African culture, won the top Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award on Monday, boosting its stature ahead of next month’s Oscars ceremony. Black Panther was named best movie ensemble in a surprise triumph over favourite A Star is Born, which ended the night without any SAG trophies. Glenn Close was honoured as best film actress for playing a devoted spouse in The Wife. Rami Malek won best film actor for his portrayal of Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody.
The awards from SAG-AFTRA, Hollywood’s largest actors’ union, are closely watched because actors form the largest voting group in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which hands out the Oscars. Black Panther has been embraced by audiences, becoming the second highest grossing movie at worldwide box offices in 2018, and applauded as a milestone for diversity in Hollywood. “I didn’t think I was going to have to speak,” shocked star Chadwick Boseman said on stage, surrounded by his castmates. Boseman said his co-stars “all know what it’s like to be told that there is not a place for you to be featured, yet you are young, gifted and black”, referring to the 1969 Nina Simone anthem of racial pride. But he added that they realised early on that “we had something special that we wanted to give the world.”
The victory for Black Panther is a sign that it will enjoy broad support in this year’s Oscars best pictures race, which has confounded experts with a strong field of contenders and no clear frontrunner. Only one film in the last 23 years has won the prestigious best picture Oscar without being nominated for SAG’s ensemble prize. That was last year’s fantasy romance, The Shape of Water. That scenario could repeat itself this year as SAG snubbed some of the best picture candidates in the ensemble category, including Spanish-language drama Roma, British period comedy The Favourite and Golden Globe best comedy winner Green Book. The Oscars will be awarded on Feb 24.
Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2019