This year the film Academy will hand the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to two recipients: Tyler Perry and the Motion Picture & Television Fund. Both Perry and the organization have been recognized for their work keeping the industry afloat amid the disastrous COVID-19 pandemic. The awards will be given during the main Oscar telecast. This is the first year in which two Hersholt Humanitarian Awards will be given out, as well as the first time the award will be bestowed upon an organization.
“There has been such widespread generosity in our industry that limiting the Hersholt Humanitarian Award to one recipient, this year in particular, was impossible. So we are breaking with tradition and giving two awards to honor that spirit,” said Academy president David Rubin in a statement.
He praised Perry, a prolific industry figure with numerous films and TV shows under his belt (some of which have drawn criticism for their messaging and repeated tropes, which Perry has pushed back on). Perry also owns a sprawling Atlanta studio that has created hundreds of jobs and been used for numerous productions, including blockbusters like Black Panther.
“Tyler’s cultural influence extends far beyond his work as a filmmaker,” Rubin said. “He has quietly and steadily focused on humanitarian and social justice causes from the beginning of his career, caring for people who are most often ignored.”
Rubin also highlighted the MPTF, a 100-year-old organization that provides financial relief, social services, housing accommodations, and more to industry members, making a huge impact during the pandemic. Hersholt, the Danish-American actor and director who inspired the award, served as the fund’s president for 18 years.
“The work of the MPTF is more vital than ever, and the organization has gone above and beyond to help our community,” Rubin said. “The sheer number of individuals and families—from every corner of our industry’s workforce—aided during the pandemic and over the last 100 years is nothing short of extraordinary.”
As with the honorary Oscars, recipients of the Jean Hersholt Award are selected by the Academy’s board of governors. The statuette is traditionally given at the Governors Awards, a separate ceremony that takes place in the fall and is not televised. But due to the pandemic, the 2020 ceremony was canceled. For die-hard Oscar viewers, bringing the honorary awards to the main telecast will be a welcome change. The 2021 Oscars will be held on April 25 and will air on ABC.
The last Jean Hersholt Award recipient was Geena Davis, celebrated for her work highlighting sexism in the industry via the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.
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