#OscarsSoWhite an industry issue!
Last week was the announcement of the nominations for 87th annual Academy Awards. ‘Hollywood’s biggest night!’ they like to call it. The night Hollywood pats itself on the back and tells everyone how great they were this year. Birdman and The Grand Budapest came on tops with 9 nods a piece. But undermining the self-congratulatory mood post-announcement was a row lead by a hashtag. #OscarsSoWhite.
You see right after the long list of nominees was read out people online began to notice how ‘white male’ the potential winners were. All 20 contenders in the main acting categories are white and there are no female nominees in the directing or writing categories.
What I believe hurt most for many observers was the perceived lack of acknowledgement for black civil rights drama Selma. Now it did get a Best Picture nomination which is the top award of the night for a film. However, earlier in the season many predicted this film to sweep on Oscar night- certainly at least most expected a nod for Britain’s David Oyelowo for his portrayal of Martin Luther King Jr.
Cherly Boone, the first African-American president of the Academy, told AP the Oscars are ‘committed to seeking out diversity of voice and opinion’ and would ‘love to see’ greater diversity among the nominees. She explains how the Academy have been ‘admitting new members and more inclusive classes of members’ in the last two years making, ‘greater striders we ever have in the past toward becoming a more diverse and inclusive organisation’.
The lack of diversity in this year’s noms is clear a problem, but personally I don’t think we should put all the blame on the academy. This is not an Oscar exclusive issue, this is industry wide. The fact that all ‘black’ hopes was placed on one film shows how there is still a long way to go. Few people will tell you Selma is a bad film (99% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) but this really has been a banner year for film- particularly independent cinema. Birdman, Whiplash, Foxcather, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel are all 5 star films for me, so I don’t envy the Academy having to narrow down the list. All those films however, are predominately both made by and starring white men. Here is the root of the problem. If the cast and crew of those films were more diverse I believe it would trickle down to more awards. Instead we have all the ‘black eggs’ in the one basket of Selma. This sort of happened last year as well (albeit with a greater success) with 12 Years A Slave, it seems we only get one diverse film per year to have a chance at awards. It is unreasonable to put so much expectation and hopes on one film and hope it survives the mad circus that is awards campaigning. This was another issue.
Selma didn’t run the best campaign e. There screenings were last minute, DVDs weren’t sent out, this might be hard to hear for some, but if Harvey Weinstein (Oscar campaigning extraordinaire) had produced this film I have no doubt it would have been nominated for lots more.
So don’t blame just the Academy the #OscarsSoWhite. If you really want to see different on the podium direct your complaints at the studios too. We need to get to the root of the issue if we want long term change.