Leonardo DiCaprio showed it with the climate crisis, Joaquin Phoenix drove the point home by being indignant on stage about the artificial insemination of cows: the stars can tackle political subjects during the Oscars evening and even be applauded for it . “It depends a lot on how we talk about it”notes Scott Feinberg, price specialist for the specialized magazine The Hollywood Reporter. “If we just look like we’re doing a publicity stunt or giving a lesson, it’s not going to go over well. But if it’s sincere, that it makes sense, then the result can be different”he told AFP.
Ukraine-born Mila Kunis and her husband Ashton Kutcher are a good example of Hollywood stars leveraging their notoriety for the Ukrainian cause. The couple’s fundraising page on GoFundMe has already raised more than $35 million to fund emergency aid and accommodation for Ukrainian refugees in neighboring countries.
President Volodymyr Zelensky himself welcomed this initiative. Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis “were among the first to react to our distress”wrote the Ukrainian head of state, who was still an actor before his election. “Grateful for their support. Impressed by their determination”he added.
We are overwhelmed with gratitude for your support. 2 weeks ago, we asked you to join us and more than 65,000 of you stepped up and donated what you could. Now, with your help we have reached our $30 million goal. (1/5) pic.twitter.com/zKoxyXqNVC
— Mila Kunis (@MilaKunisv) March 17, 2022
Sean Penn, who was in kyiv for a documentary when Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, for his part activated his humanitarian foundation which will help refugees in Poland. “Ukraine is the spearhead of the fight for the dreams of democracy. If we let it fight alone, we lose our soul as America”, the actor said in a statement to AFP. Arnold Schwarzenegger, theterminatormeanwhile called on Vladimir Putin to end this conflict “foolish”in a post that has gone viral on social media.
Many lesser-known filmmakers have also taken on the violence since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and backed Donbass separatists.
Between gestures of solidarity towards Ukraine and virulent anti-Putin tirades, the Russian invasion is a constant subject of concern in all the events of the film awards season in Hollywood. “We are with the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the war, both Ukrainian and of other ethnicities and nationalities”launched the american actress Kristen Stewart during the Spirit Awards of independent cinema.
Presenter Megan Mullally was even more blunt in her denunciation: “I think I speak for everyone when I say we hope for a quick and peaceful resolution…especially ‘Fuck off and go home Putin'”did she say.
Comedian Amy Schumer, who will present the Oscars on Sunday evening, should not fall into such language gaps. But she said she recently floated the idea of inviting President Zelensky to speak “via satellite or recorded message, because a lot of eyes are on the Oscars”. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which awards the prestigious trophies, has not publicly seized the ball and the proposal seems to have been dismissed. Amy Schumer acknowledged that “there’s a certain pressure for it to be like, ‘This is a break, let people forget, we just want to enjoy the evening'”.
For journalist Scott Feinberg, the organizers may have wanted to avoid a mix of genres which could have been awkward. For Volodymyr Zelensky, “It’s about dealing with a life or death situation. And of course he’s a former actor but I still feel like it could have really blown up in their faces”he explains.
Organizers “think hard to figure out how to talk about the subject without making the show overly political or divisive”says Scott Feinberg.
The producers of the Oscars could ultimately not address this sensitive subject at all: the winners of the evening will probably take care of it themselves by coming to receive their statuettes. “If I had to bet, I would say that almost every speech will mention Ukraine and the atrocities taking place there”launched Clayton Davis, of Variety magazine.
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Oscars 2022: should we talk about Ukraine or not, and how? The organizers of the ceremony are still undecided