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Dolemite Is My Name star Eddie Murphy was honored Monday night at the Celebration of Black Cinema, which feted more than 100 years of black cinema and honored the achievements of 2019. The event was presented by the Critics Choice Association at the Landmark Annex in Los Angeles.
Cheryl Boone Isaacs hosted the star-studded evening, which included honorees Chiwetel Ejiofor, who was introduced by Don Cheadle; Harriet director Kasi Lemmons; and actress Nia Long, plus guests Wesley Snipes, Kendrick Sampson, Larry Karaszewski, Sydell Noel and Lonnie Chavis, among others.
Ejiofor accepted his award by recalling a recent visit he had at a university where he left “troubled by gaps in the knowledge of black cinema” from those around him and within himself. That moment was pivotal, the actor explained, as he began intense research about black films throughout the years. “I am excited about celebrating and preserving black cinema for future generations in a manner that when it is unforgettable and easily accessible,” said Ejiofor. “I’m excited to celebrate the black creators past and present who have enhanced the cultural and spiritual landscape of cinema for over a century.”
Ruth E. Carter presented the Career Achievement Award to Murphy with an animated, “My name is Ruth E. Carter, and costume design is my motherfucking game!” The acclaimed costume designer won an Academy Award for Black Panther, and her body of work includes Spike Lee’s School Daze, Do the Right Thing, Mo Better Blues, Jungle Fever, Malcolm X, and Crooklyn, as well as Ava DuVernay’s Selma and Craig Brewer’s Dolemite Is My Name and the upcoming Coming 2 America 2.
“Before Black Panther introduced us to African royalty, Eddie Murphy did in Coming to America, so when Eddie called to ask me to design for the sequel, I didn’t waste a moment. I packed my bags, got my passport and headed from Wakanda to Zumunda,” Carter explained.
Murphy was given an ovation as the entire audience stood with phones in the air, recording the moment. “Congratulations to the African American film critics, because when I started making movies almost 40 years ago there were no African American filmmakers, they didn’t have no makeup, no hair department, producers, none of that,” he said. “It was rough, especially if you [went] to the hair department. If you’ve never watched Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, you’ll be like, ‘Is this how this motherfucker came to dinner?’ Sidney [Poitier] was such a brilliant actor — he was able to act like his hair was combed,” Murphy quipped to roaring laughter.
Following the awards ceremony, the party kept going as everyone moved upstairs to a jazz lounge as guests enjoyed chicken and shrimp sliders, mini servings of chicken soup topped with a butter biscuit, French fries and tater tots and veggie flatbread pizza.
Murphy is scheduled to host NBC’s Saturday Night Live on Dec. 21, and the sequel Coming 2 America 2 is set to bow next summer.
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