‘American Fiction’ Director Cord Jefferson Attributes Oscar Win To A Need For Diverse Storytelling

‘American Fiction’ Director Cord Jefferson Attributes Oscar Win To A Need For Diverse Storytelling

Cord Jefferson won at the Oscars on Sunday, taking home the award for Best Adapted Screenplay for American Fiction.

Based on the novel Erasure by Percival Everett, the film straddled the line between drama and satire to depict social commentary on microaggression and pigeonholing of Black creatives in the publishing and film industry. To tell this story, American Fiction centers around Thelonious “Monk” Ellison (Jeffrey Wright), an intelligent and jaded author frustrated by the high-profit margins on Black entertainment that relies on discriminatory behaviors and tropes. But, in wanting to challenge the construction and prove his point about the bias for Black narratives that are more palatable for white audiences, he uses an alias to create a stereotypical book that accidentally gains him critical acclaim and notoriety.

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The first-time director and now Academy Award winner talked about the importance of what his Oscar meant to him in light of telling a story that poked fun of and had valid criticisms about the narrow depictions of Black lives.

“Hopefully the lesson here is there is an audience for things that are different. There is an appetite for things that are different and a story with Black characters that’s going to appeal to a lot of people,” Jefferson said. “[Black films don’t] need to take place on a plantation, they don’t need to take place in the projects. It doesn’t need to have drug dealers in it and doesn’t need to have gang members in it. There’s an audience and market for depictions of Black life that are as broad and as deep as any other depictions of people’s lives.”

Jefferson also went on to explain why it was essential for him to have the racially focused film take place in Massachusetts’ affluent Martha’s Vineyard, a place not known for its diverse population. “There’s a little nod to Oak Bluff in the film, a nod to the Black community that is sort of thriving in that part of the world,” Jefferson explained. “We are just as nuanced and complex and diverse as any other group of people. So, to me showing that side of Boston that isn’t normally shown and showing these kinds of people who aren’t normally shown on the big screen. It was important to me to show diversity within diversity, sort of like how people assume that diversity means one thing and you have one Black guy in a room, and that gives you the totality of the Black experience.”

Check out his backstage comments tonight above.

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