Activists Take Their Cue From McDonagh's Award-Winning Film

Martin McDonagh’s critically acclaimed black comedy, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, has been making headlines for a number of reasons over the past few months, Jade Hanley explores


Since the awards season kicked off in January earlier this year, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has won a staggering five BAFTA Awards, four Golden Globes, Three SAG Awards, (Screen Actors Guild) over a range of categories including Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Film. The film is also nominated for seven Oscars for the upcoming 90th Academy Awards that will take place on March 4th and has been hotly tipped to pick up Best Picture – the award to rule all awards.

Frances McDormand plays grieving middle-aged mother, Mildred, who decides she’s done caring what other people think and rents the titular three billboards to call for justice for the rape and murder of her daughter. She paints the massive billboards with three messages, “Raped while dying?”, “And still no arrests?”, “How come, Chief Willoughby?”, to make a statement to the town and chief of police that enough is enough.

How can you not love Frances McDormand? Beyond just her powerhouse performance in this film, she also knows how to make a pretty good speech. While accepting her award for Best Actress at the recent BAFTAs, she addressed the public’s acts of civil disobedience inspired by her character’s actions. Earlier that very night, the ‘Sisters Uncut’ activists crashed the BAFTAS red carpet to call on the British Government to change its domestic violence laws. McDormand used her speech to call attention to what’s going on in the world, matters that truly deserve to be in the limelight.

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“I want to say that I appreciate a well-organised act of civil disobedience, and I am thrilled that activists all over the world have been inspired by the set decoration of the Three Billboards in Martin’s film.”

The striking billboards have clearly resonated with a wider audience and activists in both London and Florida have adopted Mildred’s tactics to amplify their causes.

A trio of mobile billboards passed through London last week to remind the public and government of the Grenfell tower tragedy that killed 71 people. The organisation, Justice4Grenfell, was inspired by the film to create 3 Billboards Outside Grenfell Tower, London, painting the messages, “71 DEAD”, “AND STILL NO ARRESTS?” and “HOW COME?” across the vibrant red and black billboards, mirroring McDonagh’s now-famous movie scene. Eight months on from the horrific fire, which killed 71 people, and left hundreds of survivors homeless, these three billboards are here as a reminder that resolution has yet to be reached for victims of the tragedy and to support the community, survivors, and bereaved families.

A similar display took place in Miami, Florida a few days after 17 students were killed in yet another school shooting in the US. The online activist group, ‘Avaaz’ took to the streets with Three Billboards Outside Miami, Florida to officially call out Senator Marco Rubio for his inaction on gun control, demanding that the government calls for stricter gun laws. Again, these billboards were printed in black on red billboards with the message, “SLAUGHTERED IN SCHOOL”, “AND STILL NO GUN CONTROL?”, “HOW COME, MARCO RUBIO?”. There have been 18 gun shootings in America since the beginning of 2018 alone and this shocking figure is only going to grow unless something is done.

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