Academy’s Governors Awards: 2017 honorees include Agnès Varda and Donald Sutherland

The website of the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Science describes the Governors Awards as an annual event, ‘celebrating awards conferred by the Academy’s Board of Governors – the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award [in memory of studio executive Irving G. Thalberg, 1899-1936], the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award [in memory of Danish-born actor Jean Hersholt, 1886-1956], and the Honorary Award [the latter given for extraordinary lifetime achievement, exceptional contributions to the motion picture arts and sciences, or outstanding service to the Academy]. Recipients are announced each summer and honored at a dinner gala in November. Highlights from the event are incorporated into the year’s Academy Awards show.’

It’s a remarkable black-tie dinner event for about 500 invitees that includes film clips as well as remarks from the honorees’ colleagues and admirers. At the 2017 Governors Ball of November 11, held at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center, the four honorees who were to receive an Honorary Award were filmmakers Agnès Varda (pictured above when I met her a few months earlier) and Charles Burnett, veteran screen actor Donald Sutherland, and cinematographer Owen Roizman. Four-time Academy Award-winner Alejandro González Iñárritu (“Birdman,” 2015; “The Revenant,” 2016) was the fifth honoree to receive a special award for Virtual Reality achievement for his short “Carne y Arena” (2017).

Steven Spielberg introduced and praised all five of them in a heartwarming speech, emphasizing on reaching higher, dreaming bigger and being greater.

Jessica Chastain paid tribute to Belgian-born filmmaker Agnès Varda. At age 89, she finished her latest picture earlier this year, the documentary “Visages Villages” (a.k.a. “Faces Places”). Considered to be a pioneer of the French New Wave ever since she began working behind the camera in the mid-1950s, Agnès Varda, as Ms. Chastain noted, ‘paved the way for female filmmakers around the world.’

Angelina Jolie praised Ms. Varda who throughout her career held up to the viewers the beauty and nobility of everyday life – the dignity and the heroism of the person next to us, their struggles, their memories and their value.

When Ms. Varda accepted her Honoray Award, she gave the following speech.

Her spontaneous ‘dance of cinema’ at the end of her speech, didn’t go unnoticed, as she was joined immediately by Angelina Jolie.

While we have been focusing now on Ms. Varda’s tribute by the Academy’s Board of Governors, let’s not forget there were other extremely talented people being honored that very same evening. Here’s how Jennifer Lawrence introduced Donald Sutherland at the Governor’s Awards that evening.

Whoopi Goldberg joined Ms. Lawrence with her own tribute to Donald Sutherland and his vast career as an actor and a screen veteran.

Which was followed by Mr. Sutherland’s breathtaking acceptance speech.

More speeches of this amazing tribute can be found on the website of the Academy right here.