Idris Elba: ‘Beasts of No Nation’ Would Have Bigger Awards Impact in Today’s Social Climate

Idris Elba won the SAG Award for supporting actor, but the Oscars shut him and the film out.
Idris Elba, "Beasts of No Nation"
Idris Elba, "Beasts of No Nation"

Beasts of No Nation” marked a historic moment for Netflix as the streaming giant’s first original narrative film production. The film launched in competition at the 2015 Venice Film Festival and then opened October 16, 2015 day-and-date in theaters and on Netflix. Many industry figures wondered if “Beasts” would bring Netflix into the Oscar race for the first time, but the Academy shut the film out despite Idris Elba’s SAG Award win for Best Supporting Actor (he was also nominated at the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs) and the film’s SAG nominee for outstanding cast. Elba recently told THR that awards bodies wouldn’t ignore the film had it been released in 2021.

“I think the reception from an audience perspective would be very similar [if it was released today],” Elba said. “But considering the social climate now, ‘Beasts of No Nation’ would certainly make a real impact in terms of awards and accolades, and not just because of the climate but because of Cary’s great film. A film like ‘Beasts’ at that juncture [in 2015] was being ignored for many reasons. But you wouldn’t be able to ignore it in this climate.”

Elba’s omission in the Best Supporting Actor category at the Academy Awards was widely seen as one of the biggest Oscar snubs of 2015. While Elba did land in the acting races at the BAFTAs and the Golden Globes, neither the movie nor director Cary Fukunaga found themselves in the running for Best Picture and Best Director. “Beasts” did wind up with five Film Independent Spirit Award nominations, including Best Feature, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Male Lead for young breakout Abraham Attah.

“Beasts of No Nation” is based on the novel by Nigerian author Uzodinma Iweala. Elba stars as a ruthless African warlord who takes in a young boy, Agu (Attah), and trains him to become a child soldier. The film was widely acclaimed, with IndieWire’s Eric Kohn writing at the time, “Fukunaga, who also serves as the cinematographer, maintains full control of his immersive canvas. The spectacular wide shots and vivid colors of the jungle scenery are constantly at odds with the mounting violence.”

“Beasts of No Nation” is now available to stream on Netflix.

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