African-American Film Critics Celebrate Quincy Jones, 'Black Panther'

Rich Fury/Getty Images
Quincy Jones

Jason Blum, 'BlacKkKlansman' and 'If Beale Street Could Talk' were among the other recipients of awards at the 10th annual gala.

The African American Film Critics Association honored iconic music producer Quincy Jones on Wednesday night with the Stanley Kramer award for social justice. The 85-year-old received a standing ovation at the Taglyan Complex as he showed off his dance moves to Michael Jackson’s "Off the Wall" – one of many songs Jones has produced during his illustrious career as musician, composer, record and film producer.  

“We’ve come a hell of a long way from the time when I was the young film composer in town, when you didn’t see faces of color in the studio commissaries,” he said from the podium. “Today we have wonderful young talent both in front and behind the cameras. Young men and women who have contributed to our industry in every way, from the creative side to making decisions in the front office. We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long, long way to go. We’ll get there.”

Jones’ daughter Rashida was the recipient of the best documentary award for the film that depicted the vast career of her father. “I was privileged enough to live in a house and grow up with my father and his wisdom and his love, but the joy that we feel to be able to share that with the world — who he is, his humanity, his belief in people, his belief in hard work and inspiration — is one of the biggest honors of my life,” she said.

The association also honored film producer Jason Blum with the Cinema Vanguard Award. A choked-up Blum told the audience this particular honor made him emotional. “It’s different for a white guy to get this, in a profound way,” said Blum. “This is definitely the most important award I’ve ever been recognized for. Just to be recognized for doing a tiny bit to do something about racism makes me feel proud.”

“The idea that African-American movies don’t travel is total garbage,” continued Blum, citing Get Out as an example of a film that had great financial success overseas. “I would like to make something clear: We do not hire diverse directors to win awards. We don’t hire women because it’s the right thing to do. We hire diversity because we hire the best. We hire diversity because it’s been great for our business. We’ve had too many years of movies and TV shows populated by people who look like me. It’s time that artists in front of and behind the camera look like the world looks.”

Ava DuVernay, whose show Queen Sugar won the award for best drama series (winners in multiple categories were announced in December), opened the show by presenting the award for best director to Ryan Coogler. Quoting Angela Bassett’s character in Black Panther, DuVernay said: “When Queen Ramonda looks upon her son T’Challa and delivers a proclamation, she says, ‘It is your time.’ We, the black filmmakers around the world, proclaim the same to the film’s mastermind, Ryan Coogler.”

“It really truly is an honor,” said Coogler, singling out Jones and Barry Jenkins from the stage. “A big thanks to Barry and all the filmmakers who are out there challenging [viewers] and challenging filmmakers.” 

Jenkins was on hand to accept the best independent film award for If Beale Street Could Talk, which also won the award for best supporting actress, Regina King.

“When you create a piece of work, any kind of work, that represents a certain experience, you hope the people who identify with that experience find merit in the work. [This award] means everything,” Jenkins told The Hollywood Reporter.   

As the conversation around diversity grows louder, the shift in the industry towards inclusion could be felt as a whole by the attendees of the awards show. “I think things are definitely shifting, but we have to keep our eyes on it,” said Jenkins. “I think there is progress. I don’t think it is lip service at all. It is slow, but I think the more we have conversations like this, where everybody is checking in, the more rapidly these things will pick up steam.”