Viola Davis Receives 2023 Chaplin Award

Quoting the Chaplin Awards website: "The Chaplin Award... goes to an actor or filmmaker whose work embodies Charles (Charlie) Spencer Chaplin’s qualities of realism, diversity, and courage within their craft. These individuals have made outstanding contributions to entertainment within the field of cinema throughout the entirety of their career."

This year's recipient was actor, producer, and soon-to-be director Viola Davis. She was honored with tributes from Gina Price-Bythewood (director of The Woman King), Meryl Streep, Jessica Chastain, George C. Wolfe, among others.

While being interviewed on the red carpet, Viola Davis said, "I am very blessed. No doubt. But it would be beautiful if we had a lot of company in this rarified air. I've always felt that the privilege was just doing it. See, I'm from the other side of acting then: ninety-five per cent unemployment rate, one per cent that make $50,000 a year or more. I never got into it to be famous."

To clarify, she is speaking of other black actors.

It is because of her production company that The Woman King was produced in the first place. Viola Davis is making her mark on the industry in a way that few black women (e.g., Oprah Winfrey) have been able to do.

Throughout the evening we were treated to several clips of Viola Davis' performances from the many films of her career. 47 films were listed in the program in her filmography!

Regarding the preparation for The Woman King, director Gina Prince-Bythewood had said in previous interviews: “When we started doing the deep dive into the research, we realized the history of these women and Dahomey was being written from the oppressor’s point of view.

"I just find it really fitting that in an era where Hollywood is dominated by superhero movies, that suddenly when you have black women in those positions, there’s something about that that seems to be bothering people. ... I think some people can’t even fully put their finger on what it is that is bothering them about it.

“The biggest eye-opener was how much misinformation there is about these women and this culture given that so much of their history was written from the colonizer’s point of view. So it was really about separating the texts that were from that point of view - which were so disparaging and disrespectful - from the truth.”

Thank you, Viola Davis, for bringing us this film, and this history!

In her tribute to Davis, actress Jessica Chastain said regarding The Woman King, “A movie like that with a female director and a cast of powerful black female leads can get made in Hollywood today because of Viola’s lifelong advocacy for women of color. Maybe one day a movie like that can get nominated for an Oscar.”

Gina Prince-Bythewood and son, Viola Davis and husband

*Photos by Nina Kennedy


Nina Kennedy is a concert pianist, orchestral conductor, and award-winning filmmaker. She holds a master’s degree from the Juilliard School. Her memoir, Practicing for Love, is a 2021 Lambda Literary Award Finalist. The sequel, Practice What You Preach, is available at



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