Colman Domingo is calling out the lack of awards buzz for “Rustin,” despite being an Oscars contender and critically acclaimed Netflix film.
The lead star, who is among IndieWire’s Oscars shortlist for Best Actor for portraying Civil Rights leader Bayard Rustin in the film, told Vanity Fair that there are only “certain eyes that are able to” see films like “Rustin.”
“Now, my question is this, Ava, because I always think, is it about the certain eyes that are able to land in our films? Because I literally went into a dinner party the other night and I was struck by the amount of people that still hadn’t seen ‘Rustin,’” Domingo said while in conversation with Ava DuVernay for the outlet.
Domingo continued, “I’ve seen ‘Oppenheimer,’ I’ve seen ‘Killers of the Flower Moon,’ I’ve seen ‘Saltburn.’ I’ve seen all these things because I think I’ve always been groomed knowing that I look at stories outside of my experience. But I think there’s a large contingent of people who need to be told, like you’re saying with marketing dollars, that, ‘This has something to do with you.’”
DuVernay responded to Domingo, saying, “You’re right. That’s unfortunate because we watch films from all over the world that have nothing to do with me, and we watch it because we don’t have to be centered, we are used to that because we are so often not centered. I don’t want this to be misconstrued – I’m just saying certain people need a certain kind of invitation, and those of us who are perhaps used to not being centered don’t need that invitation or else we wouldn’t be watching anything. But if you require that invitation, it’s necessary.”
The “Origin” director added that for “Rustin” in particular, it comes down to “the math” of an Academy Awards campaign.
“This is tens and tens and tens of millions of dollars spent to gain the attention of a small group of people that vote for this piece of gold,” DuVernay said. “And that gold helps the people around the world say, ‘Oh, I should look at this.’ And so there’s a value there. But that process requires, unfortunately, a lot of money. And if you don’t have that money, then you’re not in that process. It does not mean that your film is not worthy. It doesn’t mean that it won’t connect and change. But in this process that we’re talking about, it is a political campaign and you’re either in it or you’re not. We’re not.”
Directed by George C. Wolfe, “Rustin” follows the activist (Domingo) as he organizes the iconic March on Washington. Oscar winner Barry Jenkins praised the film, produced by the Obamas’ Higher Ground production company, for being “uncontrollably” moving.
Domingo told IndieWire that “Rustin” premiering amid the SAG-AFTRA strike made him have a “crisis of faith” as he could not publicize the film on the festival circuit, which led to feeling “sidelined.”
“At some point, honestly, I really did have a crisis of faith where I thought it was lasting too long, where I could not talk about the film and why I care about it and how I led it and all that stuff,” Domingo said. “And honestly, I got a little depressed. And I thought, ‘Why me?’ This is such a momentous occasion and something I care about so deeply. My first leading role in a film, and I thought, ‘Well, why must I be sidelined?’”
He concluded, “People have been wanting to give me my flowers, so to speak. They see that I’ve been working and the rigor that I’ve taken, in the leadership and creating work when there was no work, I feel I’m being seen now for 33 years of working in this industry, and maybe not getting shine sometimes. And now I’m getting so much amplification because people have been like, ‘He’s still doing this. He’s still at it. He’s still making waves as a writer and a director and a producer, you name it. He doesn’t stop.’”