Director George C. Wolfe highlighted the kindness of the late Chadwick Boseman during Tuesday night’s Celebration of Black Cinema event. Wolfe recalled a moment while shooting “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” when all eyes were on 17-year-old actor Dusan Brown, who played Sylvester.
Co-stars Boseman and Viola Davis as well as producer Denzel Washington were all watching.
“[Dusan’s] nervousness took over and he was starting to freak out…Chadwick pulled him aside and said, ‘We are here for you. We are here to support you. This is your moment, and that’s why all of us are here.’ What an astonishing, incredible, generous thing for someone to do for another actor,” Wolfe said. “That was Chadwick. He was so present, not just as an actor, but present as a human being.”
The Critics Choice Association presented the Celebration of Black Cinema as a virtual ceremony to honor some of this awards season’s most visionary films, actors, producers and directors of the season. Bevy Smith, author of “Bevelations: Lessons from a Mutha, Auntie, Bestie” and former moderator of Bravo’s “Fashion Queens,” served as host.
Boseman received the performance of the year award. Even after his death in August 2020, he had a stellar year with critically acclaimed performances in “Da 5 Bloods” and the posthumously released “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” At just 43, Boseman already had an impact on the culture at large with his roles as historical figures, but none more significant than “Black Panther.”
Wolfe accepted the award on behalf of Boseman and his widow, Taylor Simone Ledward. “Incredible artist, extraordinary human being. A light, an energy, a power. He had it all,” Wolfe said.
Other honorees at the Celebration of Black Cinema included Yahya Abdul-Mateen II for his portrayal of Bobby Seale in “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” the cast of “One Night in Miami” for their ensemble performance, “Judas and the Black Messiah” director Shaka King, Olympian Tommie Smith, Andra Day for her portrayal of Billie Holiday, John Legend and Mike Jackson for their role as producers and Delroy Lindo for an outstanding career.
The Critics Choice Association honored Tessa Thompson for her acting in “Sylvie’s Love.” Thompson captured the importance of the celebration in her acceptance speech.
“I believe that the stories we tell about blackness in this moment are even more resonant,” Thompson said. “I believe that by not allowing Black characters to fall in love, to dance, to have access to moments of joy inside of pain and struggle is a way and has been Hollywood’s way of diminishing our humanity. I really felt like this film was a love letter to us, but one that was for everyone.”