By: Zenab Saeed ~Staff Writer~
The Screen Actors Guild- American Federation of Television and Radio Artists presented the 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards last Sunday. However, this year’s ceremony was marked by celebration of diversity and commentary on political turmoil over President Donald Trump’s controversial immigration ban.
Nomination announcements, which occurred prior to the ceremony, included the recipient of the SAG Life Achievement Award. The winner, actress and comedian Lily Tomlin, had previously received many Tony Awards, Emmy Awards and a Grammy Award.
Notable winners in the film category included Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, who won awards for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role and Female Actor in a Supporting Role for their film Fences; Emma Stone, who won the award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role for La La Land; and Mahershala Ali, who won the award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role for his film Moonlight.
Nominated alongside Fences, Moonlight, Captain Fantastic and Manchester by the Sea, Hidden Figures won the award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.
In the television category, Stranger Things unexpectedly won the award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series, beating out popular shows such as Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones.
Though the Hollywood film industry has previously been criticized for lack of representation of ethnic and racial minorities, the SAG Awards recognized diversity this year, taking a cue from the Golden Globes Awards that occurred earlier this month.
Though the awards show focused on honoring the year’s best in acting, many actors presenting or receiving awards used the opportunity to discuss recent political developments and express support and empathy for immigrants and refugees.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who won the award for Best Actress in a Comedy Television Series for Veep, expressed her discontentment with the immigration ban.
“My father fled religious persecution in Nazi-occupied France,” Louis-Dreyfus said. “And I’m an American Patriot, and I love this country. And because I love this country, I am horrified by its blemishes and this immigrant ban is a blemish and it’s un-American.”
Ali expressed similar sentiments in his acceptance speech.
“What I’ve learned from working on Moonlight is we see what happens when you persecute people,” Ali said. “They fold into themselves, and what I was so grateful about in having the opportunity to play Juan was playing a gentleman who saw a young man folding into himself as a result of the persecution of his community and taking that opportunity to uplift him and tell him that he mattered and that he was O.K. and accept him and, uh — I hope that we do a better job of that.”
Referencing Hidden Figures, a film about unity and acceptance, actress Taraji P. Henson said, “When we put our differences aside and we come together as a human race, we win, love wins. Every time.”
Political sentiments aside, the results of this year’s SAG Awards are timely in aiding film enthusiasts making predictions about winners of the 89th Academy Awards, which will take place on Feb. 26.
Between the critical acclaim for Moonlight, La La Land and Fences and the outspoken political commentary surrounding President Trump’s new legislation, the Academy Awards are expected to be just as exciting as the Screen Actors Guild Awards.