Sunday, March 05, 2006

THE OSCARS® AND POLITICS

In the last official briefing on Friday before the big show, Oscar® producer Gil Cates, director Lou Horvitz, and Academy president Sid Ganis promised no political uproar. Though host Jon Stewart is known for his political comedy on "The Daily Show," and many of the nominated films have political themes, the Academy Awards® show isn't about politics, it's about "rewarding excellence" and reflecting the times, Cates said. Yet, if any Oscar winners want to make political statements during their acceptance speeches, that's fine. "It's their 40 seconds," he said.

The Oscar crew is prepared for anything Sunday, Horvitz said, even a rumored streaker. "If it's going to happen on the stage, we're going to cover it the appropriate way," he said.

Cates said there would be no limit on gay cowboy jokes, for or against. However, Ganis joked: "It's a three-and-a-half hour show, so 167 is the quota."

Pardon me, gentlemen, politics will be there big time, because a number of movies that will shine at the Academy Awards tonight are there by design. Who designed them? Social Entrepreneurs. Who are the social entrepreneurs? Well, in the movie business the chief among them is Jeff Skoll, along with his friend George Clooney, and others. A Social Entrepreneur is society's change engineer, a pioneer of innovation that benefits society.

Who is Jeff Skoll? He founded that little company selling all kinds of things on the Internet, called eBay. After he built it into a gigantic enterprise, he sold it for billions. Now his goal is to use movies to help change the world for the better by curing social ills, and God knows there are plenty of those to keep all the Social Entrepreneurs hopping.

First, he establish a non-profit, The Skoll Foundation, and one of his first projects was to make a deal with Warner Brothers to dub the movie GANDHI into Arabic. Skoll was shocked when he learned the film had never been dubbed into Arabic, and Palestinians had never seen the 1982 movie that won 9 Academy Awards, including best picture. He loves the film, and he believed Gandhi's message of non-violence was one the Palestinians should hear.

"The Gandhi Project" began in April 2005 when the movie premiered at the Cultural Palace in Ramallah. It has been shown in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, and on the wall at the Qalandia checkpoint that marks the border between the Palestinian Territories and Israel.

Meanwhile, Skoll formed a production company, Participant Productions, to make new films that he believes will change the world for the better, one story at a time. The mission: "Participant believes in the power of media to create great social change. Our goal is to deliver compelling entertainment that will inspire audiences to get involved in the issues that affect us all."

And what does all this have to do with the 78th Academy Awards®? Three of Participant's films are nominated this year, including one for best picture, GOOD NIGHT and GOOD LUCK. The others are SYRIANA and NORTH COUNTRY, making a total of 11 nominations in all.

No politics at the Oscars? Hogwash!

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