The 7-Time Black Oscar Nominee You Don't Know Who Is Working on Ava DuVernay's 'Wrinkle in Time'
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Awards , Film , Television

The 7-Time Black Oscar Nominee You Don't Know Who Is Working on Ava DuVernay's 'Wrinkle in Time'

Image via Tribeca Film

It certainly shouldn’t be a shock to anyone reading this when I say that there haven’t been very many acceptance speeches delivered by black artists (both in front of, and behind the camera) on the Oscar stage over the years. In fact, since the very first event in 1929, there have been roughly 35 black Oscar winners total. I’m not including “Honorary Oscars;” but even if I did (there’ve only been about 5 of those), the total number is still laughably small, relative to how long the awards have been in existence, and how many award categories there are.

Not to diminish the accomplishments of those who’ve won an Oscar, but we’ve still got a very long way to go before reaching anything that looks like *equality.* It’s even more of an embarrassment given how liberal Hollywood claims to be, or thinks it is.

Some will question whether black artists should care about the validation that winning an Oscar might give them. In response to that, I’d say that, many do care, whether you like it or not. When you’re working within a specific system, you adhere to the rules and regulations of that system, and you cherish the rewards that come from doing your job, as identified within that system. So if you’re hoping for a black boycott of the Oscars ever, don’t hold your breath.

But this is a problem that runs much deeper, and is bigger than one award show – something we’ve discussed, and continue to discuss on S&A.

Right now, as I look over my black Oscar history spreadsheet, I noticed an item that doesn’t seem to have received much national attention, and that I thought was worth mentioning in a post, about a month after the 2017 ceremony.

This year, Denzel Washington, who now holds the record when it comes to the most nominations for a black actor (male or female), upped his total number of nominations to 7 (thanks to “Fences”), including 5 Best Actor nominations, and 2 Best Supporting Actor nominations.

But did you know that there’s another black talent with 7 Oscar nominations as well, matching Washington for the most Oscar nominations by a black creative?

Willie D. Burton is his name; and he’s been nominated 7 times in the Best Sound Mixing category, winning 2, also matching Denzel’s record 2 wins.

In fact, before Denzel’s “Fences” nomination this year, Willie D. Burton was the most Oscar-nominated black talent ever, with his 7th nomination coming in 2006 for “Dreamgirls,” which he also won that year.

If you can find another black person with more than 7 total nominations – again, not including “Special Oscars” or “Honorary Oscars” – let me know. But my research (digging through the Oscar’s own archives) tells me that, up until this year, Burton claimed the record for most Oscar nominations by a person of African descent.

Quincy Jones has 6. It’ll be 7 if I added his Humanitarian Award, but, as I said at the start, I’m not including any Honorary or Special awards.

Mr. Burton was nominated for his work on “The Buddy Holly Story” (which made him the first black person to be nominated in that category – Sound Mixing), “Altered States,” “WarGames,” “Bird,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” “The Green Mile,” and “Dreamgirls.”

He’s won twice: for “Bird” and “Dreamgirls.”

The Tuscaloosa, Alabama native’s career spans 40 years, and has included big studio films (in addition to those already mentioned) such as “Se7en,” “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle,” “The Help,” “Straight Outta Compton,” and even “Fences.” He’s also currently listed as Sound Mixer for Ava DuVernay’s upcoming “A Wrinkle in Time” which is currently in post-production.

In total, he has 130 credits (according to his IMDB page) in film and TV (he’s been nominated for one Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for his work on “Roots”).

Impressive resume! It’s as if he’s worked on almost every significant black film or TV project since his career began in 1975 with Sidney Poitier’s action-comedy classic “Let’s Do It Again.”

So if you didn’t know about Willie D. Burton’s place in not only Oscar, but also film history, now you do.

A tip of the hat to Willie D. Burton doing the kind of very crucial, *unsexy* behind-the-camera work that the average movie lover likely would never hear or read about; although seemingly quietly winning top industry awards along the way (those that typically aren’t presented during live ceremonies).

Shadow and Act is a website dedicated to cinema, television and web content of Africa and its global Diaspora. With daily news, interviews, in-depth investigations into the audiovisual industry, and more, Shadow and Act promotes content created by and about people of African descent throughout the world.

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