Yet another big award show returned to mostly normal with the Film Independent Spirit Awards back in Santa Monica on Sunday. Deadline reports that Taylour Paige and Ruth Negga were among the film winners for Zola and Passing respectively, while Thuso Mbedu was recognized in TV for her work in The Underground Railroad.
We’re not going to claim the Indie Spirit Awards have a great track record of shouting out Black artists, but this year’s show did provide a chance for some favorites to finally get out of the shadow of bigger budget properties. For example, Paige picked up the award for Best Female Lead for Zola. The teary-eyed, shocked actress said, “I wrote something because I’m not eloquent and I’m drunk!” She went on to thank her co-stars and director Janicza Bravo, stating, “I hope to keep attempting, it’s so hard to make movies.”
After being nominated Best Supporting Actress at multiple award shows, Negga finally won for her amazing performance in Passing. Since she’s currently in rehearsal for a play, Negga thanked her co-star Tessa Thompson, along with the rest of the filmmakers via video.
“Nothing can be created in isolation without anybody else,” Negga said. “We create in solidarity with others, so I feel this is an award for all of us, and I’m so proud to have been part of such a beautiful, beautiful film.”
Continuing his domination of awards season, Questlove picked up another Best Documentary trophy for directing Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), which is streaming on Hulu right now and you really need to watch it. Even if you’ve already seen it, watch it again. In addition to all the praise it’s received, the film has struck an emotional chord for showcasing a long-forgotten moment in Black history.
“We’re happy to be the conduit but we’re really just representing people whose stories have been buried for so long,” Questlove said during his acceptance speech. “For a lot of people, I didn’t realize that seeing this footage would have brought something emotionally out of them.”
Despite its riveting story and critical acclaim, The Underground Railroad has spent awards season caught in the wake of HBO’s juggernaut Mare of Easttown. However, Thuso Mbedu finally received her flowers for leading the emotional Prime Video limited series with a win for Best Female Performance in a New Scripted Series.
She thanked director/executive producer Barry Jenkins, Amazon and the entire production saying, “Every single person who was involved in The Underground Railroad, there was no person too small in making the project what it was, and I really, really hope you guys will take the time to watch it, because it’s an absolute masterpiece.”
The television categories also saw big wins for Black and Missing, Reservation Dogs and Squid Game’s Lee Jung-jae. It’s always great to see new, diverse shows get recognized over the same familiar titles.
As excited as we are to see these wins, this has been another very white awards season with only a few Black artists being let through the velvet ropes. Yes, we have our own shows to celebrate Black excellence, but mainstream awards are how writers, directors and actors get noticed and hired for the next level. Until more Black creatives are nominated and win, the status quo won’t change.