Disappointing week for Diversity in Film #OscarsSoWhite

Disappointing week for Diversity in Film #OscarsSoWhite

hc OscarSoWhite

The Golden Globes disappointed many Selma fans this week, with the Martin Luther King biopic taking home only one award (an achievement nonetheless for Common and John Legend) out of its four nominations.

And with the nominations for the Academy Awards announced on Thursday, this has been a disappointing week for diversity in film. Any social media-ites will remember the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag that took the Twittersphere by storm. Selma did however receive a nomination for Best Picture and another award for Best Original Song, but both DuVernay and Oyelowo missed out.

There are reasonable explanations for why DuVerney missed out on a Best Director nomination. Time staff writer, Daniel D’Addario, explains that the Best Director category is only voted on by directors, whereas the Best Picture category is voted for by members who come from multiple areas in the industry (costume designers, make up, sound, lighting and so on). Hence the category becomes more select.

If the Best Director category is only voted on by directors – and there have been no black female filmmakers even nominated for Best Director, and only three black men (the third being Steve McQueen, only last year) who have received nominations – then what can we expect?

Outside of the prestigious old Hollywood boys club, men and women from BAME backgrounds are acting, writing and directing. In the age of globalization, the films they are making are gradually getting recognized by diverse audiences. The Academy needs to change with us.

Even with recent breakthroughs, such as the multiple nominations and wins for 12 Years a Slave and a black female president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the Academy remains an old boys club. Much like our very own British government, the Academy is somewhat out of touch and wholly unrepresentative. Even the Best Actress and Best Actor categories and Best Supporting categories lacked (any) diversity. This year, both the Oscars and the BAFTAs inadequately represented the triumphs and the doors that, not just Black or Black British, but actors and actresses from all BAME backgrounds have opened over the past year.

Hollywood elitism does not stop there. Several of the British actors nominated have come from privileged backgrounds. Some are Oxbridge graduates or old Etonians, some are the children of actors or producers, and though this has nothing to do with their undeniable talent and range, it does mean that they have had the exposure and the opportunity where others have not.

That is why awards season matters. Try as you might to ignore the BAFTAs or the Globes or the Oscars, most winners go on to bigger and better things, winning awards here becomes a means to exposure, a means to more money and trust from producers and companies, and ultimately a means to getting more films (award winning films) made.

Alas, there is always the NAACP Image Awards.

-Hannah Capmbell


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