Marlon Brando’s indigenous sit-in and Clint Eastwood’s cowboy response | The USA Print

Marlon Brando's indigenous sit-in and Clint Eastwood's cowboy response



They won’t even remember who won the 2021 Oscars, Will Smith’s slap to Chris Rock for a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s alopecia, Smith’s partner, it eclipsed all lists of winners, including best actor in a lead for Smith himself. The attack gave rise to endless hours of debates on the limits of humor and freedom of expression. For this year, the executive director of the Academy, Bill Kramer, has announced that they have prepared a team to avoid incidents of this type. In the age of social media, the 20-second broadcast delay used by all major American events to censor controversial moments has become totally obsolete. The direct of the ABC chain partly censored the incident while everyone who had Twitter was already hallucinating with Smith’s slap and tacos, through the signal of Australian or Japanese chains.

The aggression of the Prince of Bel-Air was the crudest and rudest of the confrontations in the history of the Oscars, which left us jewels like the face to face face between Marlon Brando and Clint Eastwood for the rights of North American Indians. Although calling him face to face is untrue, because Brando didn’t even attend the gala and sent an actress and activist instead.

“Hello, my name is Sacheen Littlefeather. I’m Apache and I’m the chair of the National Committee on Affirmative Image for Native Americans. I’m representing Marlon Brando tonight, and he asked me to tell you that unfortunately he can’t accept this very generous award. And the reasons for this are the film and television industry’s treatment of Native Americans in movie reruns, as well as recent events at Wounded Knee. I pray at this time that I have not intruded on tonight, and that we will in the future, our hearts and understandings meet with love and generosity. Thank you on behalf of Marlon Brando.”

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It has now become a tradition, and award speeches seem to limp without some sort of claim. But Brando’s sit-in was a huge shock at the time and the consternation of those attending the gala can be seen live with murmurs and boos when Littlefeather explained the reasons for the rejection of the award.

Brando’s claim was a hot topic at the time the gala was taking place, some 200 activists from the American Indian Movement had occupied the village of Wounded Knee to protest the treatment of Native Americans across the country and as a way to to call attention to another set of reforms. The indigenous occupation, in a place as emblematic as Wounded Knee (in 1890 there was a massacre by the United States Army in which more than 200 Lakota people died) received great media attention and gained the support of public figures such as Jane Fonda, Johnny Cash or Angela Davis.

Members of the American Indian Movement and US authorities meet to resolve the 1973 standoff at Wounded Knee, South Dakota.

It was evident that Brando’s gesture was going to raise blisters in the most conservative skins. The first reply to the indigenista speech came a few minutes later on the same stage when Clint Eastwood, at the award ceremony for best film, which also won the Godfather, mocked the previous speech and received greater approval: “I don’t know if I should to present this award on behalf of all the cowboys filmed in all of John Ford’s westerns over the years,” the actor snapped as he reached the lectern.

Almost half a century later, last summer, the Academy apologized to the actress for the booing she received and for the consequences of that act: “The abuse you endured for that statement was unjustified. The emotional burden you have experienced and the damage from your own career in our industry are irreparable,” the president said. “For too long the courage you displayed has not been recognized. For that, we offer both our deepest apologies and our sincere admiration,” he added. According to The actress felt harassed and discriminated against from that moment on and denounced having been included in a blacklist within Hollywood.

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“Zionist bandits”, climate change or “No to war”

Politics also took the stage at the Oscars when Richard Gere denounced the Chinese occupation of Tibet, with Michael Moore’s ‘No to the Iraq war’ against George Bush, or Leonardo Di Caprio’s speech warning about the effect of the human action on climate change.

The most famous was the 1978 edition, again with boos from the public. Actress Vanessa Redgrave, an advocate for the Palestinian cause, was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Julia, raising the ire in part of the Jewish and pro-Israeli community that protested against the nomination. Redgrave’s response came with the statuette in hand, thanking the Academy for the award and attacking the protests: “You have refused to be intimidated by a small group of Zionist bandits, whose behavior is an insult to the figure of the Jews around the world, and his great and heroic commitment to the fight against fascism and oppression”.