Next month marks the 10th year since Gavin Hood’s Tsotsi won Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars in Los Angeles. That was a huge milestone for the country’s film industry and, even more so, for actress Terry Pheto, who played the female lead, Miriam, in the movie.
Despite popular belief, winning an Oscar doesn’t guarantee success in the future, but those who have earned the accolade get a lot more respect. So when the Oscar nominees list was announced last month and there were no black actors nominated, the awards caught a lot of backlash, a reaction that was “too late”, according to Pheto. “We need to deal with the root of the problem,” said Pheto.
“Issues of diversity need to be raised right at the beginning, when producers and writers are deciding which stories to tell. “Right now, Hollywood is still telling mostly white stories. That means they will cast white actors, who’ll eventually be nominated for Oscars.” Asked if she supported the idea of black actors boycotting the Oscars, Pheto said: “Yes and no. I feel for the actors who believe they are being overlooked, but at the same time, I think it’s important for us, as black actors, to support the people involved with the awards this year.
“The Oscars are not only limited to the acting categories. There are many people in the film industry, working hard towards diversity. We need to acknowledge and celebrate them too, instead of only focusing on the acting categories.”
Speaking about her plans for this year, Pheto said she was excited about being one of the ambassadors for premium liquor brand Johnnie Walker and the release of her new film, A United Kingdom, in which she stars alongside Selma actor David Oyelowo. It tells the story of Seretse Khama, Botswana’s first president, who made headlines for being in an interracial relationship after marrying his young, white office worker.
“I’m hoping this film gets recognised for an Oscar next year,” Pheto said. “Not necessarily because it’s a black story, but because it’s simply a good story.”