Mar 12, 2024 - Culture

Oscar-winner filmed a different side of Boston

Cord Jefferson holds his Oscar

Photo: Michael Tran/Getty Images

Writer and director Cord Jefferson, who won the best adapted screenplay Oscar Sunday for his film "American Fiction," wanted to portray a more diverse side of Massachusetts than what typically comes out of Hollywood.

Why it matters: When the wider American movie-going audience thinks of Boston as a film setting, they're apt to identify the city with Irish gangsters, academic institutions or sports victories.

  • Jefferson's script about a Black writer and his family of doctors defies the stereotype.

What they're saying: "I said no pictures of Fenway Park, no pictures of duck boats on the Charles. ... I wanted to explore a different side of Boston and, you know, one of the different sides of Boston is Black people," Jefferson said after winning his Oscar.

  • Axios's Maxwell Millington asked Jefferson how he approached Boston as a setting when adapting Percival Everett's 2001 novel "Erasure" into his directorial debut in 2023.

Jefferson wanted to "reflect the diversity of the Black experience," and show multiple Black characters from different backgrounds interacting, he said.

  • "It's important to recognize that no one Black person contains the totality of the Black experience," he said.

In setting much of the film in a beach house outside Boston, Jefferson says he included a nod to the Black community in Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard, which has long been considered a haven for Black vacationers.

  • "We weren't able to shoot in Martha's Vineyard because the film didn't have Martha's Vineyard money," Jefferson said of the film that cost less than $10 million to make.
  • Instead, the beach scenes were shot in more accessible places like Scituate.

Another Best Picture nominee, "The Holdovers," featured scenes of a Black private school chef played by Da'Vine Joy Randolph visiting family in Roxbury.

  • Randolph won the Best Supporting Actress award for the role.
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