Race, starring Stephan James as Jesse Owens, deserves to be remembered by Oscar voters during the 2017 Awards Season.
As the 2016 Awards season came to an end last night with the Oscars, a question on my mind is this: will voters still remember Race later this year?
Make no mistake that The Birth of a Nation should certainly be on the radar during awards season come later this year, but will anyone remember Stephan James’ performance as Olympic great Jesse Owens or will his role be largely forgotten come December?
In theory, we should see some acting nominations for minorities come next year but it’s not that often that early calendar releases get nominated for Best Picture or their acting performances are remembered either.
Directed by Stephen Hopkins from a screenplay written by Joe Shrapnel & Anna Waterhouse, Race stars Stephan James, Jason Sudeikis, Jeremy Irons, Carice van Houten, and William Hurt.
Owens’ story is one that is incredible and the filmmakers wisely chose to focus on two years of his life rather than a full biopic. He won four Gold Medals during the 1936 Olympic Games in Germany. At a time when Adolf Hitler was in power and already turning Germany into his vision of Aryan rule, an African-American track star took the games by storm. The movie is not so much about his quest to become an Olympic legend but also about courage, determination, tolerance, and friendship. The 1930s were not exactly the best time to be an African-American as the Civil Rights movement wouldn’t go into full swing for another twenty years.
James Cleveland “Jesse” Owens (James) grew up in Ohio and attended The Ohio State University, where he was no stranger to racism and set high standards for competing in track and field.
Larry Snyder (Sudeikis) coaches the track team and he’s not afraid to test Owens and push him. Snyder is savvy and becomes a friend to Owens. Owens has a young daughter with Ruth Solomon (Shanice Banton) – Ruth’s love and support of Jesse help bolster his winning ways in college athletics and this is what helps put Owens on the Olympic team should the USA not boycott the games.
In also telling Owens’ story, the film tells the story of how the U.S. Olympic Committee nearly boycotted the games. It was a very close vote that pitted committee president Jeremiah Mahoney against millionaire industrialist Avery Brundage (Irons). Brundage meets with the Germans and he sets out the American demands for what they need to do in order to earn America’s participation.
Owens nearly doesn’t race after meeting with officials from the NAACP. With all the oppression going on in Germany, it would have made sense to boycott the games on principle but what better message would be sent other than racing and winning gold? With Race, Owens entered history and still serves as an inspiration today.