Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama and Sen. Kamala Harris made surprise appearances at Women in Film's awards ceremony with special videos, while veteran newsman Dan Rather called the group's work toward gender parity in entertainment an example of "basic American decency, tolerance and generosity."
Comedian Jessica Williams hosted the unexpectedly patriotic Crystal + Lucy Awards Tuesday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, where F-bombs flew freely and "Wonder Woman" earned applause anytime it was mentioned.
Clinton said she hadn't seen "Wonder Woman" yet, but planned to: "Something tells me that a movie about a strong powerful woman fighting to save the world from a massive international disaster is right up my alley," she said before introducing Crystal Award-winner Elizabeth Banks.
Lucy Award winner Tracee Ellis Ross was misty-eyed as she watched Obama describe her as brilliant and hilarious.
"Your character on 'Black-ish,' Bow, is an inspiration for folks all across this country," the former first lady said.
"Oh my goodness gracious," Ross said.
In accepting the award named for Lucille Ball, Ross said that "to be a part of reshaping what it is to be a modern woman through the face and being-ness of a joyful black woman is really special."
But she said she wonders why such representations are so few.
"Why are black women underrepresented in the stories that get told?" Ross asked, adding: "That question is not just a question for black women."
Robert Redford, who played Dan Rather in the 2015 film "Truth," presented the reporter with a humanitarian award.
Rather praised Women in Film for supporting equality, inclusion and fairness.
"In standing tall about these characteristic American values, you do our country — not just the film industry, but our country — great service far beyond what you may imagine," he said. "It is of tremendous value to our nation as a whole."
Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong'o introduced filmmaker Mira Nair, who received the Dorothy Arzner Director's Award. Producers Michael Barker and Tom Bernard received the inaugural Beacon Award: The co-founders of Sony Pictures Classics have released more than 60 films directed by women.
Actress Zoey Deutch received the Max Mara Face of the Future Award, which Banks received eight years ago.
"You get eight years before you get the Old Lady in the Business award, so good luck," Banks quipped.
She said movies and TV shows by and about women are important because media images shape popular perspectives.
"We are creating culture," she told the industry-heavy crowd. "We are sending messages out into the world, and those messages matter. Presenting strong independent women who have agency in TV and film, is really important — not just in this room, not just in our culture, but in global culture."
The annual Crystal + Lucy Awards raise funds for Women in Film's research and education programs.
Besides awards, the gala offered a look at some of Women in Film's new initiatives, including the "Flip the Script" series of short videos premiering on YouTube Wednesday.
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