‘Summer of Soul’ Producer: Will Smith ‘Robbed’ Us
Summer of Soul producer and Academy Award-winner Joseph Patel has weighed in on “The Slap,” saying Will Smith’s actions on the Oscars stage were “selfish.” Smith shocked viewers during Sunday’s live telecast when, in an unscripted moment, he approached the stage and smacked Chris Rock while the comedian was presenting the Best Documentary award.
“It robbed the category of its moment,” Patel wrote in a lengthy Twitter thread published Wednesday evening. “It robbed the other excellent and amazing films of their moment to be acknowledged in what was a STRONG year for docs.”
In another shocking revelation, Patel stated that, when announcing the Summer of Soul win, “Chris Rock lumped me in as 1 of ‘4 white guys,’” — Rock missed both Questlove’s moniker as well as the fact that Patel is not white during his introduction. Rock’s comment can be clearly heard in footage posted to the Academy Awards’ official Twitter account as the Summer of Soul team stands to accept their award. Patel, who hails from the San Francisco Bay Area and resides in Brooklyn, identifies himself as being of South Asian descent.
— The Academy (@TheAcademy) March 28, 2022
“The reason that makes me SO SO VERY ANGRY is because I was so proud to be one of a handful of South Asians to have ever won an Oscar in the history of the award,” Patel tweeted, noting he was the third South Asian to take home an Oscar that evening. “I’m a big boy — I can take a joke. Comedians make jokes. But not in that moment. What a shitty, disrespectful thing to do.” Patel also stated that, while he recorded the telecast he “didn’t have the stomach to watch it” upon returning home to New York and, due to Rock’s remarks, “probably never will.”
The Oscars, and other awards shows for that matter, have long been criticized for its lack of diversity. In 2015, the trending #OscarsSoWhite ostensibly ushered in changes that addressed the imbalance. By 2020, the Academy made changes to address the issue, introducing new diversity and inclusion standards for Oscars Best Picture eligibility.
Still, while the organization has attempted to work toward inclusion with eligibility, Sunday’s Oscars indicated that honoring diversity goes further than what qualifies for eligibility to what is also projected at the ceremony itself, which reaches millions of people worldwide.
Patel said he was angry at both Rock and Smith, and angry for himself, Questlove, and their fellow filmmakers, and called Rock “an absolute fucking dick” for his part in ruining what should have been a celebration.
“I never need a statue to tell me how nice I am — but it sure helps,” Patel concluded, quoting A Tribe Called Quest’s 1993 single, “Award Tour.” “And what both Will AND Chris did really stained what should have been a beautiful moment for us.”
Following Smith’s attack on Rock, the confrontation reverberated backstage in the Oscars press room, seemingly taking some of the shine off Questlove’s well-deserved moment, as a reporter asked Questlove about the vibe in the Dolby Theatre when he began his acceptance speech. “I’m not talking about that,” he said, visibly frustrated. “This is about the Harlem Cultural Festival.” The day after the event, Smith — who won Best Actor later that night for his role as Richard Williams in King Richard — issued a public apology.
On Wednesday, the Academy announced it is in the midst of an investigation over the slap and the organization claimed it asked Smith to leave the awards show following his attack on Rock, but the actor refused.