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Culture

"And the Winner is..."

On Sunday, America's Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded the Oscars. This year, African Americans played a prominent role at the Academy Awards ceremony.

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"Best Leading Actress" Halle Berry

When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded the Oscars on Sunday, one of the sentences most often heard was "Black is beautiful". African Americans took home the most coveted awards at the gala.

The event was hosted by Whoopie Goldberg – who is herself an African American.

Halle Berry became the first black woman to win an Academy Award as best actress on Sunday. Berry won for her role as a woman overtaken by rage and frustration in the movie "Monster's Ball". In the film she played a down-and-out waitress who falls in love with a white racist prison guard.

In an emotional acceptance speech, Berry dedicated her award to all the African-American women who had struggled before her to make their way in Hollywood.

Best actor

47-year-old Denzel Washington won the Oscar as best leading actor for playing a corrupt cop in the drama "Training Day."

Washington was only the second African American to win the best-actor prize. Before him, only Sidney Poitier had won in this category – but that was almost four decades ago. In 1964, Sidney Poitier won for "Lilies of the Field".

In a special tribute, Hollywood honored Poitier on Sunday as the first leading man to cross Hollywood's color barrier.

In 74 years of Oscar history, only 26 African Americans have been nominated for acting, and only seven, including Washington and Berry, have won.

Best picture

The psychological drama "A Beautiful Mind" won the Academy Award for best picture this year. The film tells focuses on Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Nash and his lifelong struggle with schizophrenia.

With this film, Ron Howard also won the prize in the category best director.

An American affair

This year, the prizes in the most prestigious categories went to American productions. Former Beatle Paul McCartney on Monday said it was important that Americans won this year's most coveted Oscars. Speaking on Sky News, McCartney said, "this year -- with what happened in America -- I think maybe it was kind of important that a lot of Americans had to win."

One non-American production, however, managed to rake in four Oscars. "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring", which was made in New Zealand. "Lord of the Rings" won the Academy Awards for best original score, visual effects, cinematography and make-up.

Best foreign language film

The Oscar for best foreign language film went to a picture about war-shattered Bosnia. In "No Man's Land," a Bosnian soldier and his Serbian enemy are thrust into an abandoned trench to confront the wreckage and futility of that war.

Before it won the Oscar, "No Man's Land" had already won the Golden Globe for best foreign film. But the epic still wasn't an international commercial success. In the U.S. the film only grossed some $750,000 at the box office.

The other big contender for the foreign film Oscar was more the audience's favorite. The poetic French movie "Amelie" has taken in nearly $134 million worldwide and became the top-grossing French film ever in the United States.

Mark Johnson, who chaired the Academy's foreign film committee praised the innovative ideas in the nominated films. "Those of us in this business should get our passports renewed if we want to get a look at the future of filmmaking," Johnson said. "These films have more to teach us, more to amaze us, than what's currently playing in our neighborhood multiplexes."

German nominee

The only German who was nominated this year was Berlin director Johannes Kiefer. His film "Gregor's Greatest Invention" was in the running for best live action short film. But Kiefer lost out to Ray McKinnon and Lisa Blount's "The Accountant".

On Monday Kiefer said he wasn't terribly disappointed he hadn't won. He said being nominated and being in Hollywood for the Oscars was a great experience in itself.

Kiefer said that just having been nominated would already help his career. And the fact that he didn't win would only mean that the pressure wouldn't be so high for his next film.

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