Oscars snub Zelensky’s request to speak at the awards ceremony
The Oscars have declined for the second year running a proposal from the Ukrainian President to speak at their upcoming ceremony despite proactive attempts by Volodymyr Zelensky to ensure he was not snubbed again. Sources say the WME talent agency enlisted to help Mr Zelensky secure an appearance had failed in their plea to the Academy. The rejection followed the publication of a research paper suggesting more than a quarter of Americans believe their government is providing “too much” support to Ukraine.
Just over a year into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Mr Zelensky has become the face of resistance to Putin’s expansionism.
He has spoken at countless events, including the Grammys in February, as well as the Cannes and Venice film festivals last year.
Other than a small Italian song festival in January that pulled his satellite speech from its programme at the last minute, few media events have turned down the opportunity to have Mr Zelensky speak.
But the Academy has remained resolute in its opposition to allowing the Ukrainian President to address the event.
After Sean Penn visited Kyiv last year to meet with Mr Zelensky, where he left one of his two Oscars to reclaim when Ukraine won the war, WME power agent Mike Simpson became involved with the President.
Mr Simpson represents Aaron Kaufman, who co-directed with Mr Penn the Mr Zelensky documentary “Superpower”, which debuted at the Berlin Film Festival in February.
Mr Zelensky had enlisted the help of Mr Simpson largely to secure a speech at the Oscars, but Variety have revealed that this came to no avail.
Within the US alone, more than 15 million people watched the four-hour long Oscars last year. The event poses a unique opportunity for the media-savvy Ukrainian President to appeal to Kyiv’s most influential supporters.
Total US aid to Ukraine, both pledged and delivered, amounts to just under £65 billion, according to the Kiel Institute, which makes them the most significant supporter of Kyiv by almost ten-fold – Britain has donated the second largest amount of money, totaling just over £7 billion.
At a time when Ukraine and NATO’s eastern member states closest to Russia grow concerned that a Republican victory in the upcoming US elections next year could see that funding diminish if not disappear, a speech by Mr Zelensky to millions of the American electorate was viewed as an opportune moment to remind them of the importance of victory over Russia.
The Academy declined to comment on the Variety story and the claims contained within it that they had refused Mr Zelensky’s offer.
But sources close to Oscars producer Will Packer said that their reasons for declining the offer last year amounted to a concern about the optics of supporting a war fought largely by white people.
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The sources alleged that Mr Packer expressed concerns that Hollywood would be seen as racially-prejudiced if it showered Ukraine with attention having ignored for years wars around the globe that impacted people of colour.
While the reasons behind the snub this year remain unclear, PEW Research Centre, a US-based nonpartisan fact tank, reported that US support for Ukraine among the citizen population is waning.
In its report, it said: “About a quarter (26 percent) now say the US is providing too much support to Ukraine, while 31 percent say it is giving the right amount and 20 percent would like to see the US give Ukraine additional assistance.”
The figures were the second time since they began polling on this issue that the number of respondents against supplying Ukraine outweighed those for it.
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