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EDITIONS
Oscars 2002 Monday, 25 March, 2002, 17:37 GMT
Black winners: Hype or history?
Halle Berry and huisband Eric Benet watch Denzel Washington's speech
Will young black actors find it easier to win?

Every observer, pundit, journalist and commentator had one thing to say about the 74th Academy Awards: "History was made."

Of course, the first best actress win for a black star in 74 years, only the second black star win for best actor and Poitier's honorary Oscar all added up to an unqualified historic evening.

But the question in Los Angeles has turned to - has it made any difference?

James Wilsom, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, told BBC News Online: "We are really excited by this.

"It is really overdue. Hopefully, change will come from this because there are a lot of actors that have been out there and overlooked.

Halle Berry and Denzel Washington
Halle Berry and Denzel Washington celebrate their victories
"Hopefully, this will open doors for more black talent and persuade more studios to give roles to black talent."

'Change'

"A change has come," screamed the LA Times newspaper.

Oprah Winfrey, thanked in her speech by Halle Berry, admitted she had attended the Oscars just in case history was made.

"It's a good thing. Does it mean there will be many more scripts, or the doors falling open for African American actors?

"Not necessarily."

Kenneth Turan, film critic for the LA Times, said: "After an awards campaign season universally acknowledged to be the most petty and mean-spirited in memory, the entire Academy Awards process also got a heartening, emotionally stirring Hollywood ending.

"The Oscar ceremony touched chords of genuine feeling you would have sworn were beyond the grasp of this often derided ceremony."

Sidney Poitier
Sidney Poitier's speech was well-received
The anticipated battle between The Lord of the Rings and A Beautiful Mind was completely overshadowed by the wins for Washington and Berry.

It was also one of the longest award ceremonies in academy history at more than four hours long, partly because the big winners were given plenty of time to gush, thank and in Berry's case cry.

Julia Roberts, who had campaigned for Denzel Washington, presented the award to the actor for his role in Training Day.

'Stoic'

Afterwards, she said she felt she was happier than Washington about his win.

She said: "He is very storic, regal and very composed. I am just more enthusiastic than that."

Ironically, the wins come after an anti-discrimination campaign was launched by a group called the Guerrilla Girls.

On a giant billboard erected by the group, the campaign lamented the "anatomically correct Oscar".

Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey before the ceremony
"He's white and male, just like the guys who win," it said, only to be disproved on this occasion.

But if anyone wonders at the scale of the job remaining before there is genuine equality then there are plenty of reminders.

An enormous poster towers on Sunset Boulevard, advertising Vanity Fair's Hollywood issue.

A dozen up-and-coming actresses lounge in the picture, among them best supporting actress winner Jennifer Connelly.

And how many of them are black?

One.

Countdown to the biggest event of the movie year

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