One of the stories being lost in all this hoopla about “the slap” is that at the time Chris Rock was presenting the award for Best Documentary Feature, which was won by Summer of Soul. The film is a beautiful love letter to Black musicians, chronicling the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival. With the entire Dolby Theatre and audience at home reeling from Will Smith’s actions, director Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and producers Joseph Patel, Robert Fyvolent and David Dinerstein didn’t get to truly soak up their Oscar-winning moment. Now that he’s had a few days away from everything, Patel took to Twitter to make his thoughts on both Smith and Rock very clear, per The Hollywood Reporter.
In a now deleted series of tweets, Patel wrote, “Once we realized the Chris Rock/Will Smith interaction wasn’t a bit, everything got turned upside down. Everyone was still trying to make sense of it when Chris persevered and started to read the nominees.”
Summer of Soul swept through awards season and was the presumptive winner, so this was supposed to be its crowning moment. Instead it was taken away by Smith.
“I think what Will did was selfish. It robbed the category of its moment,” Patel continued. “It robbed the other excellent and amazing films of their moment to be acknowledged in what was a STRONG year for docs. And it robbed Summer of Soul and our team of our moment. Of a loud, enthusiastic cheer for a celebrated film.”
And as if being disrespected once while winning an Oscar wasn’t enough, Patel personally suffered a second insult when Rock announced the winners of the award as Questlove “and four white guys,” per HuffPost. Except Indian-American Joseph Patel is not white and he was the third South-Asian person to win that night, something he noted later that evening in the press room. I’d like to think Rock was just shaken up, but since Summer of Soul was the favorite, you know he had that joke ready to go for weeks.
In the immediate aftermath of “the slap” and winning an Oscar, he didn’t hear Rock’s comments but when a friend told the filmmaker about them later he wrote on Twitter that his reaction was, “WHAT IN THE ACTUAL FUCK?????”
After noting that he had the ceremony on his DVR, but “didn’t have the stomach to watch it,” he sarcastically thanked Rock, then called him “an absolute fucking dick.” Patel finished up his thread with, “I never need a statue to tell me how nice I am - but it helps. And what both Will AND Chris did really stained what should have been a beautiful moment for us. FIN.”
Of course Twitter being Twitter, the producer was forced to delete his thread, tweeting in a new post: “We reached the unproductive portion of the viral Twitter thread so I’ve deleted it. I said what I needed to say and feel at peace with it. Some of y’all are weirdos.”
No matter what you think of what Will did, his actions changed the tone of the entire show, affecting everyone who presented and won after the incident. Summer of Soul is such a good movie and it deserved to have a true Oscar moment.