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R.I. fans cheer Viola Davis’s Oscar win

George Marshall, who taught Viola Davis at Rhode Island College, with Emma Tirrell (left) and Rosie Stevens.
George Marshall, who taught Viola Davis at Rhode Island College, with Emma Tirrell (left) and Rosie Stevens.(Gretchen Ertl for The Boston Globe)

PROVIDENCE — It only took one name to bring out the cheers at the big Oscar party in Providence.

“Viola.”

Even before Mark Rylance, last year’s best supporting actor winner, said Viola Davis’s last name, the guests at the Flickers Arts Collaborative Academy Awards celebration at the Biltmore Hotel were cheering.

Then it was absolute silence as guests listened to Davis’s emotional acceptance speech Sunday night. Many were moved to tears.

Davis, who won the best supporting actress Oscar for her role in “Fences,” grew up in Central Falls, R.I. She went to Central Falls High School and Rhode Island College, and she’s been a longtime supporter of her hometown community.

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Actress Viola Davis won the award for best supporting actress, for her role in “Fences.”
Actress Viola Davis won the award for best supporting actress, for her role in “Fences.”(MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

One of the party guests who cried when Davis won was 20-year-old Gabriela DiNobile, a film student at Roger Williams University, whose mom works with Davis’s sister, Deloris Davis Grant, at Central Falls High.

“It was amazing, an amazing speech,” DiNobile said of Davis, as she wiped her eyes. “Obviously tear-jerking.”

Grant, who teaches English and drama, has been a guest at the Providence Oscars party in the past, but this time she was with her sister in Hollywood for the event, and she got a special shoutout from the Oscar-winning actress in her speech.

Many party-goers in Providence were also out to support Damien Chazelle, writer and director of “La La Land,” which was up for 14 awards. Chazelle was born in Providence, but Steven Feinberg, executive director of the Rhode Island Film Office, was quick to acknowledge to the room that the filmmaker is not quite a local.

“The doctor gave him a whack on the ass and sent him to New Jersey,” Feinberg joked. (Chazelle’s last film, “Whiplash,” was inspired by his experiences studying jazz at Princeton High School in New Jersey. He returned to New England when he studied film at Harvard.)

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There were about 200 guests at the black-tie event in the Biltmore’s Grand Ballroom, many of whom were local filmmakers and film students from local colleges. One table was occupied by the crew of “Anders Manor,” a horror film that recently shot in Rhode Island. The movie’s director, Jon Schermerhorn, was pleased to share the news that his film, which stars Christina Robinson of “Dexter,” is about to get distribution.

He admitted that because he’s spent much of the past year on his own movie, he hadn’t seen many of the Oscar-nominated films.

“If it’s not on DVD, I’m not seeing it,” he joked, adding, of his loyalty for the night, “I’m rooting for Rhode Island film.”


Meredith Goldstein can be reached at meredith.goldstein@globe.com.