Denzel Washington Receives AFI Life Achievement Award at Emotional Tribute

Labor News, Industry News


Reprinted from Deadline Hollywood by Pete Hammond on June 7, 2019.

“Perhaps it is telling us something about the history of the film industry that Denzel Washington, last [week’s] highly deserving honoree for the 47th AFI Life Achievement Award, is only the third African American to ever receive it, and before Morgan Freeman was honored in 2011, Sidney Poitier in 1992 was the only person of color on the AFI list,” writes Pete Hammond in Deadline Hollywood. “Of course careers like two-time Oscar winner Washington’s are increasingly rare, but as evidenced by tributes from the stage by the likes of Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Mahershala Ali, and Jamie Foxx, there can be no question Washington won’t be the last African American so honored considering those his career has clearly inspired. It seemed entirely appropriate that Jennifer Hudson came out mid-show to sing ‘A Change Is Gonna Come,’ and received a rousing standing ovation when it was over.

“That kind of change was even evidenced at the table I was honored to be sitting at with Issa Rae who would be one of those tributing Washington, and particularly AFI Conservatory graduate Melina Matsoukas, an African American director who received the other big honor of the evening, the 29th Franklin Schaffner Alumni Medal. She is a two-time Grammy winner who has directed several music videos for Beyonce, Rhianna and more, episodes of Rae’s Insecure, Master of None, and her upcoming feature directorial debut with Queen & Slim which looked great during Universal’s CinemaCon presentation in April. The studio is giving the film a prime Thanksgiving release. A big surprise for her was the appearance of none other than Beyonce to present her award. Matsoukas was brought to tears by her presentation as Beyonce spoke. In a room lit up with a lot of star power she clearly wowed this crowd just by her presence. Matsoukas told me later she was truly shocked. ‘AFI gave me three extra seats so I called Beyonce to invite her to sit with me but she never returned the call which is unusual, so I figured she was just too busy. Now I know why,’ she laughed. …

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Deadline Hollywood 6/7

About Jeffrey Burman 5209 Articles
Jeff Burman served on the Guild’s Board of Directors from 1992 to 2019. He is now retired. He can be reached at

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