The Academy’s decision to have U.S. Rep. John Lewis introduce “Green Book” is creating almost as much controversy as the film itself.
The famed civil rights icon received a standing ovation as he took the stage to present the movie, which was later named best picture before he delivered a powerful and poignant speech about his experiences fighting racial injustice.
“I can bear witness that the portrait painted of that time and place in our history is very real,” the Georgia representative said.
“It’s seared in my memory, black men and women, our brothers and sisters, treated as second class citizens, threatened for raising their families or earning a living, beaten and sometimes killed for the crime of trying to live a life with dignity. Our nation bears the scars of that time, as do I.”
Amandla Stenberg, who was on stage with Lewis, then spoke directly about the “journey” characters take in the film, to which Lewis added: "Young or old, I encourage you to be an active participant in the journey – This is 'Green Book.'"
Almost immediately, some critics were upset with the decision to have Lewis promote a film that has been accused of being an outdated, sentimentalized movie full of racial stereotypes.
The family of Don Shirley, who is played by Mahershala Ali in the film, has also said the portrayal is not accurate.
“I can’t believe they have John Lewis introducing Green Book,” filmmaker Nia DaCosta tweeted. Ali won best supporting actor for his role in the film.
“They really made JOHN LEWIS come up here with all his legitimate history and gravitas and introduce GREEN BOOK. Isn't this against the Civil Rights Act?” R. Eric Thomas wrote.
“They dragged John Lewis out here to vouch for GREEN BOOK,” Vanity Fair critic Sonia Saraiya tweeted.
“How sly of the Academy to have Civil Rights icon John Lewis present a clip from GREEN BOOK. The perfect kind of damage control aimed at the inevitable backlash that was to come with its Best Picture win,” critic Jordan Ruimy added.
The controversy continued when “Green Book” was named Best Picture, with Spike Lee appearing to try to storm out of the Dolby Theatre after the result was announced.
Lee, a lifelong New York Knicks basketball fan, compared the "Green Book" win to a referee making "the wrong call."
In a stunning move shortly after "Green Book" was announced the winner, the director walked toward the back of the auditorium.
He eventually got back to his seat and got into what appeared to be an intense conversation with the writer Jordan Peele.