The movie Green Book , beating the record-breaking Crazy Rich Asians and crowd favourite original Roma to take home the coveted awards for best motion picture – comedy or musical and best screenplay.
The film’s name has an interesting origin – it’s based on a real, published book.
The Green Book film has been controversial from its conception, and many consider it to be a little dated and out of touch for 2019.
It attracted a stellar cast, including Moonlight actor and Oscar winner Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen.
The film has an 81% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and film critics love it. Rex Reed of the Observer called it ‘witty and warm as cashmere,’ and Ann Hornaday of Washington Post gave it high praise in her review, writing: ‘There’s something so deeply right about this movie, so true to the time depicted and so welcome in this moment.’
‘Unflinchingly optimistic,’ Johnny Oleksinki, of the New York Post, called the feature.
Despite such praise, the film has been mired in controversy after Dr Don Shirley’s family (the pianist upon which this film is based) called the film a ‘symphony of lies.’
So, what is the ‘Green Book?’
The film is set in the midst of Jim Crow America in 1962 and follows the ‘true story’ of Anthony ‘Tony Lip’ Vallelonga, played by Viggo Mortensen, and African American concert pianist Dr Don Shirley, played by Mahershala Ali.
Shirley decides to deep dive into the south where he is set to perform a number of concerts, and he enlists the help of Italian-American driver Vallelonga, whose initial views on race are rather problematic.
The film is for the most part a light-hearted translation of a friendship formed in the midst of intense racial inequality in America’s dark slave-owning past, and it’s set three years before the abolition of the infamous Jim Crow laws. These were anti-black laws that had leaked into every facet of society, becoming, especially for the formerly slave-owning states, a way of life.
The name of the film comes from a special guidebook created in the 1930s to help African Americans travel across what was then an incredibly racist region of America. It was called The Negro Motorist Green-book, named by its publisher, the Harlem based Victor H Green.
The Green Book, published in 1937 and subsequently republished for many years after that, instructed African Americans on how to remain safe whilst traveling on the road. It included information about black-friendly hotels, bars and taverns, as well as places which practiced segregation (this was almost exclusively prevalent in the southern states).
It also outlined what to do in cases of discrimination in public accommodations and racism on the road.
Who is Don Shirley?
Don Shirley was a musical genius who was born in Florida and went on to have a prolific career in the industry as a classical and jazz musician who achieved critical and mainstream acclaim. Having learned to play Tchaikovsky at the tender age of 18, he went on to perform at some of the biggest stages in the world, and collaborated with the likes of Duke Ellington and the renowned Alvin Ailey Company.
The family of the pianist, who died in 2013, said bits of the film had been ‘deeply hurtful’ and they said they had not been consulted about it.
Mahershala, 44, won a Golden Globe for best supporting actor at the award ceremony, and he admitted he after Shirley’s family criticised him for his portrayal of the musician.
He said: ‘I will say that my job is always the same and I have to look at what I’m responsible for doing and all the prayers, the energy, the time, the work, I am not one who is going to necessarily through all that away over things I had no control over and had nothing to do with.
‘I respect the family, I respect Dr Shirley and his family and I wish them well. I have a job to do and I have to continue to do my job as I move onto my next project and treat everyone I work with them respect.’
The Green Book will be showing at cinemas in the UK on 1 February.
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