Actress Jessica Chastain was honored as the Most Valuable Player at the 20th annual Critics’ Choice Movie Awards Thursday at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles.
Chastain used her acceptance speech to acknowledge the late Martin Luther King Jr., who would’ve celebrated his 86th birthday the same day, and also scorned Hollywood for its lack of diversity.
“Today is Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, so it got me thinking about our need to build the strength of diversity in our industry, and to stand together against homophobic, sexist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic and racist agendas,” she said.
The 37-year-old actress, also a Best Supporting Actress nominee for A Most Violent Year, continued:
“I’m an optimist, and I can’t help but feel hopeful about the future of film, especially looking at all of the beautiful people in this room.”
“Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.’ and I would like to encourage everyone in this room to please speak up. Thank you.”
Chastain’s speech comes on the heels of Thursday’s release of Oscar nominations, which has stirred up negative media attention for its “lack of diversity” in the awards categories.
Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences president, remains persistent in explaining that the Academy does not fail to recognize diversity.
“The good news is that the wealth of talent is there, and it’s being discussed, and it’s helpful so much for talent—whether in front of the camera or behind the camera—to have this recognition, to have this period of time where there is a lot of publicity, a lot of chitter-chatter,” Isaacs told Vulture.
As for Selma, “it’s a terrific motion picture,” she added, “and that we can never and should not take away from it, the fact that it is a terrific motion picture. There are a lot of terrific motion pictures, it’s a very competitive time, and there’s a lot of great work that has been done. I am very happy that Selma is included in our eight terrific motion-picture [nominations].”
The academy’s choice to only nominate Selma for two awards has drawn accusations of racism from many, but none of those voices has been as loud as that of Al Sharpton.
“The movie industry is like the Rocky Mountains, the higher you get, the whiter it gets,” Sharpton declared. ” I have called an emergency meeting early next week in Hollywood with the task force to discuss possible action around the Academy Awards.”