The film that won the best picture award at Oscar’s in 2019 is the Green Book. The story takes us on a concert tour that Dr. Donald Shirley, a renowned classical and jazz pianist took in the Deep South during the segregated era of 1962.
In this journey, he is accompanied by his Italian American driver, Tony Vallelonga aka Tony Lip who is a tough guy from the Bronx chosen particularly for this risky job of a temporary chauffeur and security guard. Tony was prejudiced against blacks before his trip; had stereotypical assumptions and occasionally used racial slurs. Still, he got this job because of his skill of passing through any kind of trouble, thanks to his ‘bullshit artistry’.
Despite having quite opposite personalities, the two men were able to form a bond that overwhelms the audience heart with warmth. Dr. Shirley deliberately took on this journey to the hostile part of the country because it takes courage, as his band member said ‘to change people’s hearts’.
Going through the difficult times together, both understood each other‘s struggles and form a friendship that will illuminate until their death.
However, this film has received criticisms for various reasons. It has been the center of controversy since its release. The filmmakers didn’t contact the family of the Shirley for any information and the family said that the portrait of the artist as depicted in this film is false. Shirley’s cousin said that the film is once again the depiction of a white man’s version of a black man’s life.
Critics accused this film of having racial cliches and hinting to have found the solution or rather ended the racial prejudices. People are even discussing the credibility of a white filmmaker to make films on black people.
The son of Vallelonga addressed the controversy and said, ‘If you’re discussing the Don Shirley family thing, that falls on me; but Don Shirley himself told me not to speak to anyone.’ He told the journalists that the pianist insisted, ‘If you are going to tell the story, you tell it from your father, me. No one else.’
Despite the disputes, the film scored the top prize at the Academy Awards, Golden Globes and at People’s Choice. The director, Peter Farrelly said at the acceptance speech, ‘the whole story is about love. It’s about loving each other despite our differences.’