The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which awards the Oscars, said Friday it is working on new diversity and inclusion efforts amid the continuing criticism over the lack of diverse nominees for the film industry’s highest honors.
In a vague statement, the Academy said it is convening a task force of film industry leaders to determine “representation and inclusion standards” by the end of July. In another step, it is setting 10 as the firm number for Best Picture nominees.
Over the last decade, the Academy has been allowing between five and 10 movies to be nominated in the Best Picture category. In most years, the number has been either eight or nine.
The changes will go into effect for films released in 2021, which will compete in the 94th Oscars airing in early 2022.
The Oscars have long weathered criticism for slow progress in diversifying its membership and the range of films it awards.
Public pressure grew in 2014 and 2015 when, in both years, all 20 of the acting nominees were white performers. In response to the Oscars So White hashtag started by activist April Reign, the Academy in 2016 began trying to diversify the film industry professionals invited to join its ranks ― focusing on women, people of color, younger filmmakers and international filmmakers.
With the addition of the 2019 class of new members, 32% of the Academy’s membership was female, up from 25% in 2015, and 16% were people of color, up from 8% in 2015.
The next cohort of new members will be announced in July.
While the number of Black nominees, as well as nominees of color generally, has ebbed and flowed in recent years, progress has still been incremental at best. In 2018, the Academy awarded Best Picture to “Green Book,” an anodyne, inaccurate, saccharine and regressive portrayal of race in America.
At the Academy Awards ceremony in February, all but one acting nominee was white. The only actor of color nominated was Cynthia Erivo for playing Harriet Tubman — among many Black actors who have been nominated only for playing slaves, maids or other roles perpetuating Black stereotypes.
Last week, “Selma” star David Oyelowo said that members of the Academy complained and retaliated when the cast of that 2014 film wore “I Can’t Breathe” shirts to the film’s New York premiere — in memory of Eric Garner, a Black man who was choked to death by New York police officers that year.
In the more than 90 years of the Oscars, no Black director has ever won the Best Director award, no Black women have been nominated in that category, and only two films by Black directors have been awarded Best Picture: Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave” and Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight.”
The Academy has often pointed to those recent films to pat itself on the back, despite having a long way to go toward demonstrating that its members fully value Black filmmakers and stories.
“While the Academy has made strides, we know there is much more work to be done in order to ensure equitable opportunities across the board,” Academy CEO Dawn Hudson said in a statement Friday. “The need to address this issue is urgent. To that end, we will amend — and continue to examine — our rules and procedures to ensure that all voices are heard and celebrated.”
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