Oscars museum to tackle 'problematic history' of racism, sexism

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Oscars museum to tackle 'problematic history' of racism, sexism
The 50,000 square-foot museum is set to host iconic Hollywood treasures from Judy Garland's "Wizard of Oz" ruby slippers to Dracula's cape, as well as a giant orb-shaped theater designed by Renzo Piano for premieres and screenings. © Academy Museum Foundation.

LOS ANGELES (AFP).- Los Angeles' long-awaited Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will tackle the Oscars' "problematic history," from racism over "Gone With The Wind" to the recent #OscarsSoWhite campaign and snubbing of female directors, officials said Wednesday.

The Oscar-awarding Academy first envisioned a museum dedicated to the magic of movies almost a century ago, and its doors are finally set to open in September after numerous delays, most recently caused by the pandemic.

On the day voting for this award season's Oscar nominees closes, last year's best supporting actress winner Laura Dern took journalists on a virtual tour of the museum.

"We will not shy away from problematic histories, including #OscarsSoWhite, the lack of female representation, and Hattie McDaniel's mistreatment at the Oscars ceremony," said Dern.

McDaniel became the first Black actor to win an Oscar for "Gone With The Wind" in 1940, but was forced to sit at a segregated table away from her white fellow nominees.

Other controversies to be addressed include the harassment of actress Sacheen Littlefeather when she accepted Marlon Brando's Oscar as a protest against Hollywood's portrayal of Native American, and the casting of white actresses to play Chinese characters in 1937's "The Good Earth."

"We didn't want to erase films and artists and moments that may be uncomfortable. We wanted to confront them and contextualize them, throughout all of our core gallery spaces," said museum director Bill Kramer.

The 50,000 square-foot museum is set to host iconic Hollywood treasures from Judy Garland's "Wizard of Oz" ruby slippers to Dracula's cape, as well as a giant orb-shaped theater designed by Renzo Piano for premieres and screenings.

'Introduced to cinema'

Spike Lee and Pedro Almodovar will be among the first directors to curate temporary galleries devoted to the works of individual filmmakers.

"I want to see yellow school buses double-parked in front of the museum, and these young, beautiful minds get introduced to cinema," said Lee.

In the Oscars history section, 20 statuettes awarded from silent-era classics such as Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau's "Sunrise" (1927) through to Barry Jenkins' shock 2016 winner "Moonlight" will go on display.

Other galleries will honor crafts from animation and directing to hair and makeup, where the exhibition will "talk about black face and yellow face makeup, specifically designed for white actors to play certain roles," Kramer said.

A section devoted to iconic costume designs will feature the African-inspired outfit worn by Danai Gurira in 2018's seminal superhero movie "Black Panther."

"The inclusion of Okoye's uniform in the Academy's museum is incredibly powerful because the history of Hollywood doesn't look like the cast of 'Black Panther,'" said Gurira.

"But through the immortalization of this iconic film, and this iconic character at the museum, it gives me hope that the future of Hollywood will."

Kramer admitted the museum "will not open if it's not safe" but said the building was now fully ready to receive visitors, and expressed optimism that California's vaccination roll-out and decline in Covid-19 cases would allow the museum to meet its September 30 date.

Until then, the museum will run virtual pre-opening events, including talks with women who achieved historic Oscars milestones such as Sophia Loren, Whoopi Goldberg, Marlee Matlin and Buffy Sainte-Marie.

© Agence France-Presse

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