The Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are set to present Honorary Awards to writer-director Charles Burnett, cinematographer Owen Roizman, actor Donald Sutherland and director Agnès Varda.
The four Oscar statuettes will be presented at the Governors Awards on Nov. 11 at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center.
“This year’s Governors Awards reflect the breadth of international, independent and mainstream filmmaking, and are tributes to four great artists whose work embodies the diversity of our shared humanity,” the Academy’s new president John Bailey said Wednesday in announcing the honors, which were voted on by the Academy’s board on Sept. 5.
Sutherland’s work is probably best known to the average moviegoer, even though he’s never been Oscar-nominated. Born in Canada, the actor has appeared in more than 140 movies over six decades. Among the more prominent films in which he has appeared are MASH, Klute, Don’t Look Now, The Day of the Locust, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Ordinary People. More recently, he has appeared as the dictatorial President Snow in the Hunger Games franchise.
Early in my career, I was the cinematographer on Ordinary People, and I remember when the nominations came out, I was shocked that Donald hadn’t gotten one — and I’ve been shocked many times since then. When you look at the incredible variety of his work and the breadth of directors that he’s worked with and he’s never been nominated,” Bailey recalled in a conversation with THR. “So it was incredibly appropriate [for him to be honored] as it was, for very different reasons, for Charles Burnett, a director who has operated under the radar for decades, but who has been very influential — not just for African-American filmmakers, but for independent filmmakers, and he’s still very active.
A writer, director, producer, cinematographer and editor, Burnett is a legendary figure in the indie film community. Born in Mississippi and raised Watts, he dramatized African-American life in his first feature, 1977’s Killer of Sheep, and has gone on to make both dramatic films such as My Brother’s Wedding, To Sleep With Anger and The Glass Shield and documentaries like America Becoming and Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property.
As a cinematographer, Roizman has contributed to the look of numerous films, and has earned five Oscar nominations for his work on The French Connection, The Exorcist, Network, Tootsie and Wyatt Earp. He represented cinematographers on the Academy’s board from 2002 to 2011.
Bailey, who himself is a cinematographer, noted that he’d enver worked with Roizman, but “when i was a camera assistant and a camera operator, I was very much enthralled by his work. He’s done gritty New York street films like The French Connection, mysterious films like The Exorcist, and then, later on, glitzy Hollywood films like The Electric Horseman. A man of vary varied styles.”
Beloved by the international film community, Varda, who was born in Belgium but became known as the mother of the French New Wave, is still going strong at 89. Her most recent film, a documentary called Faces Places, just played the Telluride Film Festival. Her first feature, 1956’s La Pointe Courte, inspired her fellow circle of filmmakers who shook up cinema in the 1960s. Varda went on to make such films as Cleo From 5 to 7, Le Bonheur, Vagabond, The Gleaners and the autobiographical documentary The Beaches of Agnes.
“Agnes, especially with her new documentary, is an inspiring example for filmmakers. 89 years old, she’s still working and doing incredible work and very personal work. And at the same time, she was one of the founding members of the French New Wave,” Bailey commented. “If you look at her film, La Pointe Courte, it was again a very personal film, about people in a fishing village in Southern France that she knew very well. There’s an almost autobiographical element in all of her work, and here she made an amazing docu-drama feature, five years before Breathless, which most people think of as the first New Wave film. She’s a woman director who, really, only very recently has been getting the sort of acclaim she should have gotten a long time ago. Her awards list is stunning, and yet the one she’s never had is an Academy Award and now she’s going to have that.”
The Academy’s Honorary Award is an Oscar statuette that is given “to honor extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement, exceptional contributions to the state of motion picture arts and sciences, or for outstanding service to the Academy.”