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A Courage Deficit in the sweeping Wave of Applause

On a similar March evening in 1973, the same resplendent ceremony was being held with all its glitter and glamour. Clad in their costly costumes, those who ruled the hearts of movie lovers, were eagerly waiting for their awards.

During the previous year, the movie which had been repeatedly watched and highly appreciated by the cinema goers was ‘Godfather, in which the role of the hero had been played by Marlon Brando, who had been living in the hearts of the people for several years, and whose very name was considered to be the guarantee of success. Everyone was sure that the forty-fifth Academy Award or Oscar would be given to him. But Perhaps, history was going to confer upon him another type of award, for exhibiting a sense of honour, dignity and self-respect, and for protesting against the inhuman treatment of Native Americans known as the Red Indians. Marlon Brando was fully aware of the brutal persecution and endless torture, to which they had been subjected for a long long time in their own land. He knew that there was a time in history when large groups of European bandits, gangsters, robbers and criminals had landed on American shores and massacred the native Red Indians. They signed frequent agreements with them, but on each such occasion, they themselves deliberately violated the agreements, massacred the Red Indians, pushed them further back into their territory, occupied their lands and built their own towns and cities on the occupied lands. As many as fifty thousand such agreements have been recorded in history. Marlon Brando was appalled and outraged at the hypocritical behaviour of the Whites who claimed to be the strong advocates of equity, justice and human rights, and at the same time, continuously subjected the Red Indians to the worst form of cruelty, oppression and humiliation. He was also annoyed with the Hollywood film producers who in their movies, always presented the Red Indians as loathsome, disgraceful and ridiculous figures. Anyhow, Marlon Brando who had been nominated for the Oscar Award took an astonishing step by deciding not to go to the ceremony. Instead of going there himself, he sent Sacheen Little Feather, who was an active campaigner for the rights of Red Indians. She went to the ceremony in her traditional dress, with plumes on her head. But before the start of the proceedings, she was called behind the stage, where she was threatened and forced to run away from that place. But when she did not bow down to all such pressures, she was told that in case Marlon Brando won the award and she went to the stage for receiving it, she would be removed from the stage by the police, if she attempted to speak for more than sixty seconds. When it was announced that Marlon Brando had won the Award, she went to the stage and announced that he had refused to receive the Award as a protest against the American oppression and anti-Red Indian attitude. But she had hardly uttered these words when she was forcibly pushed back from the stage. Marlon Brando’s Award was received by Manta Roger More, who kept it for a few days, before it was snatched away by a group of armed guards. After coming down from the stage, Sacheen went to the waiting journalists and read out to them Marlon Brando’s 15-minute long speech which she wished to make on his behalf during the awards ceremony.

form of cruelty, oppression and humiliation. He was also annoyed with the Hollywood film producers who in their movies, always presented the Red Indians as loathsome, disgraceful and ridiculous figures. Anyhow, Marlon Brando who had been nominated for the Oscar Award took an astonishing step by deciding not to go to the ceremony. Instead of going there himself, he sent Sacheen Little Feather, who was an active campaigner for the rights of Red Indians. She went to the ceremony in her traditional dress, with plumes on her head. But before the start of the proceedings, she was called behind the stage, where she was threatened and forced to run away from that place. But when she did not bow down to all such pressures, she was told that in case Marlon Brando won the award and she went to the stage for receiving it, she would be removed from the stage by the police, if she attempted to speak for more than sixty seconds. When it was announced that Marlon Brando had won the Award, she went to the stage and announced that he had refused to receive the Award as a protest against the American oppression and anti-Red Indian attitude. But she had hardly uttered these words when she was forcibly pushed back from the stage. Marlon Brando’s Award was received by Manta Roger More, who kept it for a few days, before it was snatched away by a group of armed guards. After coming down from the stage, Sacheen went to the waiting journalists and read out to them Marlon Brando’s 15-minute long speech which she wished to make on his behalf during the awards ceremony.

Marlon Brando who had been nominated for the Oscar Award took an astonishing step by deciding not to go to the ceremony. Instead of going there himself, he sent Sacheen Little Feather, who was an active campaigner for the rights of Red Indians. She went to the ceremony in her traditional dress, with plumes on her head.
For some unknown reasons, dreamers like me continue to hope against hope that if a woman belonging to our country wins this prestigious award, she would go to the stage amidst loud applause and refuse to take the award by saying, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, with my fully opened eyes, I have been living in this world where during the last ten years, more than one and a half million innocent Iraqi and Afghan Muslims have been ruthlessly slaughtered by the American aggressors. How can I receive this Award in the presence of so many deserted towns and demolished homes and millions of orphans, widows and homeless people, about whom Hollywood never likes to make any documentary, while the same Hollywood has made hundreds of documentaries about the fake and fictitious tales of the Jewish holocaust during the Second World War?’

Perhaps, we do not possess even that type of courage which was displayed by the renowned American actor George Scot, who in 1971 was given Oscar Award for his excellent performance in the movie ‘Patton.’ But he refused to receive the Award by describing the Awards Ceremony as ‘Two hours meat parade.’

He further remarked, ‘I feel nauseated to see that it is a savage exhibition of the old world, which is in itself an extremely corrupt organization.

We also don’t possess the courage shown by the well-known writer Dodly Nicholas who in 1936, refused to receive Academy Award, to protest against the Academy’s discriminatory attitude towards writers.

But we had to receive this Award and celebrate it in a befitting manner, because it was given to us by an organization and group of people who have always been criticized by the weak and suppressed world for their prejudice. As members of this weak and suppressed world, we are at a loss to understand as to why Hollywood officials are always so keen to highlight only our ugly faces and disgusting stories. Why have they never attempted to narrate to the outside world the obnoxious tales of their own society? I have in front of me a complete list of all those documentaries which have won Oscar Awards since 1942. But despite my hectic search, I have not been able to find even a single documentary about any of the notorious American or European serial killers like Jack the Ripper, who abducted and killed hundreds of women, kept their flesh in refrigerators and cooked it for several days with a great deal of relish. I have failed to find any documentary about the woman who used to kill women and bathe in their blood. During my visits to the United States, I have seen a number of centers where those girls between the ages of six and twelve come for psychological treatment, who have been sexually harassed and molested by their own brothers, fathers, uncles and other such close relatives. Whenever I went on a visit to any such center, my camera was taken away from me. I don’t wish to show to the world the faces of these innocent victims of barbarity. But none of the Oscar Award winning documentaries has ever been based on the lustful activities of their beastly brothers, fathers and uncles.

As members of this weak and suppressed world, we are at a loss to understand as to why Hollywood officials are always so keen to highlight only our ugly faces and disgusting stories. Why have they never attempted to narrate to the outside world the obnoxious tales of their own society?
It is interesting to have a closer look at some of the award winning documentaries included in this list. The documentary chosen for the 1990 Academy Award was called ‘American Dream’ which shows the dreams of American labourers. In 1992, the Award was given to a documentary describing the causes for the advent of American troops in Panama. In 1993, a documentary named ‘Iama Promise’ telling the story of an elementary school children who are ambitious of changing the world got the Award. No documentary telling the horrifying tales of the atrocities of American troops in Vietnam has ever been considered worthy of getting this Award. Quite ironically, in 1994, this Award was given to a movie based on the life of the woman who gave the idea of building a memorial in Washington for the 59000 American soldiers who were killed in Vietnam. This wall built in a garden right in front of the US Congress, bears the names of all those soldiers. Other documentaries included in the list also tell highly fascinating and interesting stories. They deal with such topics as taming the dolphins, learning the game of boxing, collecting old manuscripts and improving the environment, etc. One of the documentaries is about Palestinian terrorists. Another focuses its attention on the children of prostitutes in Kolkata. One of the most popular documentaries ever made in America is called ‘9-11 Fahrenheit, which attempts to tell the real story behind the destruction of the World Trade Center, with the help of highly credible evidence. But despite its immense popularity, this documentary has not been able to find for itself a place in the list of Academy Award winners.

But there is no need for us to be worried, depressed or hopeful, because, after all, it is not so easy to turn down an award. When a person finds himself standing in a jampacked hall and smiling in front of the cameras with their dazzling lights, amidst loud cheers and tumultuous applause, how can he be expected to remember the miseries and sorrows of the common people? How can he feel the disdainful odour of the blood stained hands of murderers? But the most regretful and most shameful thing is that Marlon Brando who was a pure American on the basis of his colour, race, language and country, proved to be more courageous than Sharmin Ubaid, in spite of the fact that her innumerable brothers and sisters belonging to her own colour, race, country and religion have been mercilessly butchered during the last ten years.

By: Orya Maqbool Jan

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