Meryl Streep sparks uproar over 'We're all Africans' remarks

Thu Feb 11, 2016 3:51pm EST
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By Michael Roddy

BERLIN/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Meryl Streep, the most admired actress of her generation, fueled Hollywood's diversity controversy on Thursday when she said that all of humanity originated in Africa.

The three-time Oscar winner, who is in Berlin heading up her first international film jury, made the comment at a news conference when she was asked if she was familiar with world cinema, particularly films from Africa and the Middle East.

She said she had recently seen the Jordanian film "Theeb," about a Bedouin boy on a hazardous mission in the desert, and also "Timbuktu," about Islamist militants taking over the fabled Malian city.

"The thing that I notice is that there is a core of humanity that travels right through every culture," she said. "And after all, we're all from Africa originally, you know. We're all Berliners; we're all Africans, really."

The comments from Streep, who has been Oscar-nominated a record 19 times, made headlines around the world and swiftly became one of the top trends on Twitter.

They followed an uproar over the all-white Oscar acting nominee selection for a second straight year, which forced the movie industry to confront how blacks, Asians and Latinos are represented in front of and behind the camera in Hollywood.

Some commentators on Thursday expressed disappointment.

"You’d think Meryl Streep would be smarter than to say “We’re all Africans, really” in any context, but alas," said @Jamil Smith.   Continued...

Actress Meryl Streep, President of the international jury for the 66th Berlinale International Film Festival, attends a news conference in Berlin February 11, 2016. The festival runs from February 11 until February 21 in the German capital.    REUTERS/Stefanie Loos