Harry Belafonte set a high bar at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Governors Awards Saturday night, November 8th. In a restrained, yet powerful speech he made an impassioned appeal to the Hollywood community to change the world for the better.
Belafonte, who is about to turn 88 years old, made the appeal as he received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award from the Academy, one of four film titans to receive honorary Academy Awards.
“I really wish I could be around for the rest of the century to see what Hollywood does with the rest of the century,” said Belafonte from the podium. “Maybe, just maybe, it could be civilization’s game changer.”
Belafonte was called out as “the ultimate example of a great artist and lifelong social activist” by Susan Sarandon. She cited his many humanitarian contributions, from civil rights activism with Martin Luther King Jr. to vocal opposition to the apartheid government of South Africa.
Belafonte spoke about the powerful impact film can make—pointing out racially damaging films beginning with 1915’s The Birth of a Nation. He called on today’s filmmakers to bring about a positive change.