#OscarsSoWhite was a historic movement that swept across the film industry late last year, calling out the Academy for its questionable selection of nominees that resulted in top-tier creatives such as Ava DuVernay, Spike Lee, Michael Moore and Will Smith boycotting the ceremony outright. It had an almost immediate impact, too; the Academy invited twice as many new voters to its ranks, almost half of whom were woman and/or people of color.
Meeting overhauled racial quotas is one thing, but there are early signs that 2017’s season will yield greater diversity by the time Hollywood’s Powers That Be descend on the Dolby Theater. Controversy notwithstanding, Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation continues to emit Oscar credentials, while Arrival cinematographer and soon-to-be Star Wars DP Bradford Young has been tipped to score highly in the visual department.
Casting an eye over the principal categories – your Best Actors/Actresses, your Best Pictures – one film jostling for a place is Fences, an adaptation of August Wilson’s Tony Award-winning stage play that brings together Viola Davis and a commanding Denzel Washington. Indeed, it is Washington who will direct the feature adaptation, tapping into both his and Davis’ familiarity with the narrative after the pair earned near unanimous approval for their portrayal of Rose and Troy Maxon on the boards.
The big question going into Fences is whether their performances can aptly translate to the big screen, but at least based on today’s teaser trailer, fans of Wilson’s source material have little to worry about. Taking point as burnout patriarch Troy Maxon, Washington plays the part of a “sanitation employee who once aspired to be a professional baseball player and now faces daily discrimination while coming to terms with his lost ambitions.”
In this sneak peek, we see the Oscar-winner deliver a scathing speech to his son, drawing attention to some of the hardships both he and his wife (Davis) confront day in, day out. Jovan Adepo, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson and Saniyya Sydney round out the cast.
Fences will stake its claim in the Oscar race come Christmas Day. It’ll face strong competition at the outset, too; Martin Scorsese’s long-anticipated Silence is one of the many tentpoles opening in and around the festive season.