Two black film stars took the early acting honors at the 89th Oscars on Sunday, which began with a salvo of jokes by host Jimmy Kimmel targeting US President Donald Trump.
Mahershala Ali won the best supporting actor prize for his turn as a drug dealer with a heart in coming of age drama Moonlight while Viola Davis took the supporting actress statuette for her work in family drama Fences.
The wins for Davis, who co-starred in Denzel Washington’s August Wilson adaptation Fences, and Mahershala Ali, the Moonlight co-star, were both widely expected. Their awards marked the first time in more than a decade that multiple Oscar acting honours went to black actors.
“I became an artist, and thank god I did, because we are the only profession to celebrate what it means to live a life,” said Davis, the best supporting actress winner. “So here’s to August Wilson, who exhumed and exalted the ordinary people.”
Watch her speech here:
Ali won best supporting actor for Moonlight. He glowed on the stage as he informed the crowd that he and his wife, Amatus Sami-Karim, welcomed a daughter four days earlier. The actor thanked his wife for “being such a soldier through the process.”
Watch his speech here:
Other notable wins also include Barry Jenkins, the writer-director of Moonlight and Tarell Alvin McCraney, whose play it was based on, won for adapted screenplay.
“All you people out there who feel like there isn’t a mirror out there for you, the academy has your back, the ACLU has your back and for the next four years we will not leave you alone, we will not forget you,” said Jenkins.
Jenkins’ tender, bathed-in-blue coming-of-age drama also went on to win Best Pictureaward in a historic Oscar upset and an unprecedented fiasco that saw one winner swapped for another.
“Even in my dreams this cannot be true,” said an astonished Jenkins, once he reached the stage.