Chris Rock confronted Hollywood’s race row head-on while hosting this year’s Academy Awards.
The black comedian wasted no time in addressing the controversy which resurfaced after an all-white acting nominee line-up was announced for the second year running.
“Hey! Well, I’m here at the Academy Awards – otherwise known as the white people’s choice awards,” he said in his opening monologue.
“You realise if they nominated hosts, I wouldn’t even get this job.”
Rock was chosen to host the event for a second time last October – months before the #OscarsSoWhite row erupted again.
In his opening speech, he talked about the pressure put on him not to host the awards following the diversity controversy.
But he said he refused to quit his hosting duties because “the last thing I need is to lose another job to Kevin Hart”.
He also questioned why the 88th Academy Awards drew so much concern – guessing that black nominees were also absent in years gone by.
He said African Americans did not protest most years because they were “too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won best cinematographer”.
“You know, when your grandmother’s swinging from a tree, it’s really hard to care about best documentary foreign short,” he quipped.
Rock returned to race throughout the show. On return from one commercial break, he said: “We’re black” instead of “We’re back”.
He also raised the controversy over police shootings of black suspects in the US that has triggered the Black Lives Matter protest movement.
“This year, in the ‘In Memoriam’ package, it’s just going to be black people that were shot on their way to the movies,” he said, referring to the Oscars tribute to deceased cinema figures.
He ended the ceremony saying the night had been an “amazing experience” and threw in one last diversity dig, saying: “Black lives matter.”
Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs also addressed the issue during a speech.
She stressed that all members of the academy and “everyone in this room help deliver that message, each of you is an ambassador who can help influence others in the industry”.
“It’s not enough to just listen and agree, we must take action. While change is often difficult, it is necessary,” she said.
Director Spike Lee and actor Will Smith shunned this year’s ceremony, although a wider Oscars boycott largely failed to gather steam among Hollywood A-listers.
Lee, who received an honorary Oscar in November, instead attended a New York Knicks basketball game on Sunday and sported a black tuxedo.
“The big thing is it’s almost 100% white men who decide what gets made and what doesn’t get made,” Lee said.
“That’s where the problem is at.” SkyNews
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