More than halfway through tonight’s DGA Awards, President Donald Trump’s name wasn’t uttered, however, many winners and honorees alluded to his looming immigration travel ban, and defended their roots.
While there weren’t any call-to-arms speeches that rivaled Stranger Things’ David Harbour’s at the SAG Awards last Sunday, immigration pride was a constant motif throughout the night.
It all started at the top of the ceremony when DGA president Paris Barclay stepped away from the podium to address the mess that Trump created with his ban on those traveling from seven Muslim-majority countries.
“What’s really on my mind. I wouldn’t be here at all if not for immigrants,” exclaimed Barclay.
“We are founding members of the DGA, early members like Billy Wilder and Fritz Lang who fled Germany, they are folded into the fabric of the directors’ guild. We have a huge international membership more than one thousand and this open exchange of ideas is who we are and what motion pictures and television is increasingly about. Transcending borders is what we live for. From Kurosawa to Inarritu, our winners are international, our audiences are international. The DGA is and always will be a home for all directors.”
Then Barclay rallied his fellow union members in the room exclaiming, ““If anyone in the name of greatness chooses to block or to separate or divide, we are going to stand with the people who are like our forefathers and foremothers, who sought to tell stories of compassion and empathy.”
Production Manager Marie Cantin, honored tonight with the Frank Capra Achievement award spoke about moving from French Canada to Ethiopia, and then to the states. She came to the U.S. not knowing English, but her father encouraged her second grade teacher to sit the young Cantin at the front of the class since she’d pick up on things fast.
“My parents believed in me and instilled important core values. That I should work hard, respect people who are different from me and always do the right thing,” says Cantin.
La La Land director Damien Chazelle, accepting his DGA nominee medallion, largely spoke about how cinema can cross language barriers, but he took a moment to ding POTUS, specifically how his recent travel ban impacts one of this year’s Oscar nominated foreign film directors: “I’ve learned from the movies of Asghar Farhadi, who comes from a country my country tells me I shouldn’t be in dialogue with.”
Taking the podium for his Robert B. Aldrich Service award, nine-time Emmy winner Thomas Schlamme told the crowd how his parents fled the Nazis, and that his German father enlisted in the army, and “liberated the camps; the same camps were he could have been held prisoner had he not come to America.” His patriotic father, who Schlamme referred to as “Henry Kissinger with a bull horn” shaped how Schlamme viewed the world and taught him how “nothing should be taken for granted.” His parents were “appreciative of the opportunities that were given to them.”
“Their patriotism was one of the greatest gifts. They learnt first hand [after fleeing Nazi Germany] the importance of freedom,” said the West Wing EP.
“The point I’m trying to make aside from making the blatantly obvious political one is that having grown up in their household; giving back where it is expected” was a virtue per Schlamme.
“Noam Chomsky said, ‘Labor unions are the leading force for democracy and progress.’ This quote so accurately describes the DGA. Our guild is a shining example of democracy. Sixteen thousand strong all working together for one purpose: to tell stories. For each member who proceeded us, who fought so hard for our economic and creative protection, there are fresh voices to keep this democracy vibrant…This is our guild. Progressive and democratic, and it should not be taken for granted,” added Schlamme.
Accepting her DGA award for best Children’s Program, Tina Mabry who helmed Amazon’s An American Girl Story –Melody 1963: Love Has to Win, called the room to stand up in the face of adversity – no matter what: “2017 is starting to resemble 1963. We have a problem and being silent is not the way to go about it. Be vocal, be loud. This is a country that is for everybody no matter where you come from or whoever you are. This is a country that made my marriage legal. Remember to always stand up for what’s right, especially when it’s hard. We might have to remember, too, that every American, no matter what, you have to follow the words of a 10-year old little girl in this film. Love has to, and will always win.”
Presenting the final feature film award to Chazelle, last year’s winner Alejandro Inarritu capped off the night’s protest saying, “We all know the story being written now is really, really bad. Actually it’s a bad remake of one of the worst stories of the last century. The only way we win is by telling good, complex and truthful human stories. No alternative facts or false statistics will defeat that, never.”