A Celebration of Black Cinema held by the Critics Choice Association (formerly known as the Broadcast Film Critics Association) is scheduled for Monday, December 2nd, at the new Landmark Annex, part of the Landmark Theatre complex in Los Angeles. The event aims to honor over 100 years of black cinema by awarding four individuals for their outstanding achievements in film. Actors Eddie Murphy, Nia Long and Chiwetel Ejiofor will receive accolades, as will director and former Ebertfest guest, Kasi Lemmons. This year also marks the centennial of "The Homesteader," directed by Oscar Micheaux, credited by historians as the first African American to make a feature-length film (he went on to make 44 more films between 1919-1948).
Eddie Murphy will receive the Career Achievement Award as a tribute to his game-changing roles over the years, including his most recently acclaimed turn as comedian-turned-filmmaker Rudy Ray Moore in Craig Brewer's "Dolemite Is My Name." Presenting his award will be Ruth E. Carter, the Oscar-winning costume designer of "Black Panther" who also was the costume designer for "Dolemite."
Nia Long will be honored for her formidable body of work, which includes such landmark pictures as John Singleton's "Boyz n the Hood," F. Gary Gray's "Friday," George Tillman Jr.'s "Soul Food" and Mario Van Peebles' "Baadasssss!" Her award will be presented by RogerEbert.com publisher Chaz Ebert, who said the late director John Singleton found Long a delight to work with, and that her late husband Roger felt that Long was underappreciated. In his review of Theodore Witcher's 1997 gem, "Love Jones," Roger Ebert rightly predicted that Long was destined for more starring roles, noting that she embodies many of the same qualities as Whitney Houston: "she's fresh, has a sense of humor, and is almost implausibly good-looking."
Chiwetel Ejiofor will be awarded for his feature film directorial and screenwriting debut with Netflix’s "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind," in which he also starred. Like many of the honorees this year, Ejiofor's film recounts a true story, in this case spawned from a memoir by Malawian engineer William Kamkwamba.
Last but not least, Kasi Lemmons will be honored for her achievement in directing Focus Features’ "Harriet," the first-ever feature film about runaway slave-turned-abolitionist Harriet Tubman, starring Cynthia Erivo as the iconic freedom fighter. The film's Emmy-nominated producer, Debra Martin Chase, will present Lemmons with her award.
Former Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Cheryl Boone Isaacs will host the evening, which benefits the UCLA Film & Television Archive and its commitment to the preservation of cinema.
“The Critics Choice Association is thrilled to help celebrate a century of black cinema,” said CCA CEO Joey Berlin. “It is a privilege to honor Eddie Murphy, Kasi Lemmons, Nia Long, and Chiwetel Ejiofor for their remarkable work this year and throughout their careers. Each in their own way – through comedy and drama, in front of and behind the camera – exemplify the range and power of African American themed movies and their importance in popular culture.”