Black History Month: Honoring African American movies in Hollywood

Sandy Kenyon reports
February 10, 2014 1:40:39 PM PST
All this month we're celebrating Black History Month and an important chapter is front and center in this month's Oscar race.

And it's not just one film but a series of movies released last year that are being seen as a sign of a greater diversity on the big screen.

An important chapter in black history can be found in the first person account of a free man from Saratoga who spent "12 years a slave" before the civil war.

The film based on his book has earned nine Oscar nominations and will be front and center at the academy awards next month.

Rarely have the words Oscar and diversity gone together until this year.

"Because we're looking to be more diverse and more global has nothing to do with changing the standards, the high standards of the academy," said Cheryl Boone Isaac. "Great talent is everywhere."

And says the first African American president of the academy, that talent must be nurtured.

"Our industry as a whole must be more inclusive, must allow new talents to have their projects green lit to do better in hiring and promoting," she adds.

Though some films ultimately fell short of getting nominated, more films made by black filmmakers became part of the Oscar discussion.

This year:

" We are a multitude of stories and the real truth is more stories need to be told so that we see the spectrum and the tapestry of the human spirit," said Oprah Winfrey when we interviewed her earlier this year after "The Butler" was released.

"The Butler" was just one of three movies starring Forest Whitaker.

This past year while his younger colleagues are getting their shot in films as diverse as 'The Ultimate Defeat of Mister & Pete', recently praised by first lady Michelle Obama as her favorite of the year and "Fruitvale Station" about a police involved shooting.

"They're all very different: which I think is interesting about this time is that they're all very different films," said Whitaker.

It's been said that the only color Hollywood cares about is green.

So it's great news "The Butler" has grossed almost $116 million and, when you consider all those nominations for "12 Years a Slave", talk of a black film renaissance seems realistic.

The director of "12 Years a Slave" says the hardest part about making the movie was getting people to see it and now the challenge is getting Oscar voters to watch the picture, but on the "Gold Derby" website full of Oscar predictions, the first film to look at slavery from the slave's perspective is heavily favored to win.