Ava DuVernay to Receive Inaugural Melvin Van Peebles Trailblazer Award at Celebration of Black Cinema & Television

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Ava DuVernay and Will Smith are among the final slate of honorees for the Critics Choice Association’s fourth annual Celebration of Black Cinema & Television.

DuVernay will be honored with the first-ever Melvin Van Peebles Trailblazer Award in celebration of her achievements as an award-winning writer, director producer and film distributor.

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“We are truly honored to name our prestigious Trailblazer Award after Melvin Van Peebles. Van Peebles inspired a generation of filmmakers. He was a true maverick and a visionary cinematic genius,” Shawn Edwards, CCA board member and executive producer of the Celebration of Black Cinema & Television, said in a statement announcing that award.

Van Peebles, the groundbreaking filmmaker behind such classics as “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song,” died on Sept. 21, 2021.

Van Peebles’ son, Mario Van Peebles, will present the inaugural award to DuVernay, whose current slate of projects includes the narrative film adaptation of the bestselling book “Caste” for Netflix, along with television projects “Colin in Black and White” and “Wings of Fire” for Netflix; “Home Sweet Home” for NBC; “Naomi” for the CW; “Queen Sugar” and “Cherish the Day” for OWN; and “DMZ” and “One Perfect Shot” for HBO Max.

Smith will receive the actor award for film for his role in “King Richard,” in which the two-time Academy Award-nominated actor portrays Richard Williams, the father of tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams. Jennifer Hudson was previously announced to receive the actress award for film, for her portrayal of Aretha Franklin in “Respect.”

Hosted by Emmy-winning actress and producer Niecy Nash, the event will take place on Dec. 6 at the Fairmont Century Plaza Hotel with awards presented in 16 categories, honoring achievements in Black film and television.

Rounding out the cinema honorees are Antoine Fuqua, who receives the director award for film. Best known for directing “Training Day,” Fuqua most recently helmed Netflix’s “The Guilty” starring Jake Gyllenhaal, and is currently filming “Emancipation” starring Smith.

The ensemble award goes to the cast of Netflix’s “The Harder They Fall,” which boasts the all-star lineup of Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Zazie Beetz, Regina King, Delroy Lindo, LaKeith Stanfield, Deon Cole, R.J. Cyler, Edi Gathegi and Danielle Deadwyler.

Television honorees include Danielle Brooks, who will receive the actress award for her portrayal of the legendary gospel singer Mahalia Jackson in Lifetime’s “Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia.” French actor Omar Sy will receive the actor award for Netflix’s “Lupin.” Robin Thede will receive the showrunner award for HBO’s “A Black Lady Sketch Show,” while “Ted Lasso” star Toheeb Jimoh has been tapped for the breakthrough award for his work on the Apple TV plus series as the young Nigerian footballer Sam Obisanya.

Special honorees include Ruth Negga (Netflix’s “Passing”), Kenan Thompson (honored as the longest-serving cast member on “Saturday Night Live,” as well as for his NBC comedy “Kenan”), Patina Miller (Starz’ “Power Book III: Raising Kanan”) and Natasha Rothwell (who receives her award for HBO’s “The White Lotus,” while also serving as a writer, series regular and consulting producer on “Insecure”).

Other previously announced honorees are Halle Berry (who will be feted with the career achievement award), Anthony Anderson (the producer award for television) and Barry Jenkins (the director award for television).

Pictured (clockwise from top left): Ava DuVernay, Danielle Brooks, Ruth Negga, Kenan Thompson, Robin Thede and Will Smith.

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