Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
“It powerfully mutes the enemy’s thunder.”
Belafonte accepted the award infront of a star-studded audience alongside his long-time friend Sidney Poitier. The 87-year-old Belafonte was awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, and honorary Oscar from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his lifelong fight for civil rights and humanitarian causes.
“To be rewarded by my peers for my work, human rights, civil rights, peace, let me put it this way,” said Belafonte. “It powerfully mutes the enemy’s thunder.”
“I really wish I could be around for the rest of this century, to see what Hollywood does with the rest of the century. Maybe, just maybe, it could be civilisation’s game changer.”
Honorary Oscars were also bestowed upon three prolific artists and creators, Irish actress Maureen O’Hara, Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki and French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere were celebrated at the event.
Among those paying tribute were Ron Howard, Sidney Poitier, Warren Beatty and Reese Witherspoon.
Jean-Claude Carriere has 139 writing credits to his name, and took time to thank the directors he has worked with over the years including the late Luis Bunuel and Louise Malle.
“In a way,” said Carriere, “they are all here tonight.”
The Harlem-born Belafonte started out his speech remembering how Hollywood films like “Tarzan” and “Song of the South” fostered the racial divide in America and gave him an “early stimulus to the beginning of my rebellion.”
“Today’s cultural harvest yields a sweeter fruit,” he noted, pointing to films like the gay love story “Brokeback Mountain” and Oscar best picture “12 Years a Slave.”
“All of this is happening at the dawning of technological creations,” Belafonte added, “that will give artists boundless regions of possibilities to give us deeper insights into the human existence.”
The 94-year-old actress Maureen O’Hara was introduced by Liam Neeson and Clint Eastwood, who recalled being cast alongside the actress in a film in which she rode naked on a horse.
“My fantasies were going really wild,” he said, before revealing he was ordered off set before the scene was shot.