Entertainment Movies Harry Belafonte gets honorary Oscar

Harry Belafonte gets honorary Oscar

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Veteran actor-turned-activist Harry Belafonte has received an honorary Oscar for his humanitarian work, at a star-studded Hollywood gala which also paid tribute to three other cinematic icons.

Belafonte was given the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, while Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere and Irish actress Maureen O’Hara were given honorary awards.

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“Artists are the radical voice of civilisation,” 87-year-old Belafonte told the two-hour Governors Awards event in the Dolby Theatre, where the Oscars are held every year.

“I really wish I could be around for the rest of this century, to see what Hollywood does with the rest of the century. Maybe, just maybe, it could be civilisation’s game changer,” he said.

Among those paying tribute to him was British director Steve McQueen, whose 12 Years a Slave won the Best Picture Academy Award earlier this year.

“He basically took those powers of celebrity and fame, and used them for a bigger cause than just his own,” McQueen said.

Belafonte spent much of his life campaigning for various causes such as education, famine relief, children, AIDS awareness and civil rights.

Alec Guiness and Maureen O'Hara in Our Man In Havana. Photo: AAP
Alec Guinness and Maureen O’Hara in Our Man In Havana. Photo: AAP

His films such as Carmen Jones, Odds Against Tomorrow and The World, the Flesh and the Devil helped portray the injustices of racism and inequality.

He was an early supporter of the civil rights movement and marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr in his heyday.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences also bestowed honorary lifetime awards on Miyazaki, Carriere and O’Hara.

Miyazaki, an artist, writer, director and producer, was nominated three times in the Academy’s animated feature category, which he won in 2002 for Spirited Away.

As a writer Carriere worked with iconic directors including Luis Bunuel, Volker Schloendorff, Jean-Luc Godard and Andrzej Wajda. He shared a screenwriting Oscar for the action short Heureux Anniversaire (Happy Anniversary) in 1962.

O’Hara starred in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) at the start of a long and wide-ranging career with films including drama This Land Is Mine, family classic The Parent Trap and spy comedy Our Man in Havana.

She was also in numerous westerns as a favourite of director John Ford.

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