The British filmmaker and artist Steve McQueen, the Oscar-winning director of 12 Years A Slave, says he is “very, very sad, but not surprised” by recent racial tensions in the USA. The video artist was speaking at the European Film Awards in Latvia, where he was receiving an European Achievement prize for World Cinema. McQueen added that he was “not surprised at all” by the protests, which followed separate decisions not to indict two white police officers for the deaths of two unarmed black men: that of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
“I wish I could say I was surprised by this. It’s just very sad that it’s continuing and there’s no end to it. I don’t know what else to say, except they just have to continue to try to find a way through it.” McQueen told BBC News.
The filmmaker, added that he was also “saddened” by leaked emails between Sony chairman Amy Pascal and film producer Scott Rudin, which contained “inappropriate” remarks about President Obama.
“I know Scott very well and I’ve had acquaintances with Amy Pascal. They were extremely generous to me. It just makes me sad. But he added to BBC News: “Am I surprised? I’m never surprised, to be honest.”
The London-born director, who began his career as a visual artist, and still exhibits his work in the context of contemporary art, also holds the rare triumvirate of an Oscar, a Bafta and the Turner Prize. The artist and filmmaker had a meteoric rise after making his first feature film aged 38, and winning an Academy Award for his third, which has placed him at the top of the Hollywood hierarchy, but he is still eager to retain control of his art.
“For me now, it’s about trying to make pictures that are necessary. But I need to keep creative control of what I put my name to, I don’t know any other way of operating.”
On receiving the award McQueen stated: “That’s the big difference awards make. That – and when you’re up there receiving that recognition – the fact you can inspire people with their own dreams. It is a bit different for me,” he concedes, “but I’m not trying to make things that are painful and dark. It’s not about a strategy. I am interested in things that are contributing to our everyday, whether historically, or in the present.”
The artist and filmmaker concluded: “We live in a far from perfect world. I guess I’m just trying to navigate myself around this sweet cesspool without getting anything on my shoes.”