The head of the organisation behind the Academy Awards feels “heartbroken and frustrated” over the lack of diversity in the 2016 Oscar nominations and has vowed to rectify the problem.
Awards host Chris Rock, actress Jada Pinkett Smith and Straight Outta Compton producer Will Packer took to social media shortly after the nominations were announced last week (ends17Jan16) to denounce the exclusion of black stars from the main acting categories for the second consecutive year.
The #OscarsSoWhite movement gained momentum over the following days, with Pinkett Smith and director Spike Lee vowing to boycott the ceremony over the controversy.
Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who is the head of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, has now issued a statement addressing the lack of diversity in the nominations, and she has promised to review Academy membership to ensure there is a more representative mix of voters.
“I’d like to acknowledge the wonderful work of this year’s nominees,” she writes. “While we celebrate their extraordinary achievements, I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion. This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes. The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership. In the coming days and week we will conduct a review of our membership recruitment in order to bring about much-needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond.
“As many of you know, we have implemented changes to diversify our membership in the last four years. But the change is not coming as fast as we would like. We need to do more, and better and more quickly…. We recognize the very real concerns of our community, and I so appreciate all of your who have reached out to me in our effort to move forward together.”
British actor David Oyelowo presented Isaacs with the Rosa Parks Humanitarian prize at the King Legacy Awards in Los Angeles on Monday night (18Jan16) and revealed she discussed the issue with him in 2015 when he failed to score a nomination for his portrayal of civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma.
“A year ago, I did a film called Selma, and after the Academy Awards, Cheryl invited me to her office to talk about what went wrong then… We had a deep and meaningful (conversation). For 20 opportunities to celebrate actors of colour, actresses of colour, to be missed last year is one thing; for that to happen again this year is unforgivable.
“We grow up aspiring, dreaming, longing to be accepted into that august establishment because it is the height of excellence. I would like to walk away and say it doesn’t matter, but it does, because that acknowledgement changes the trajectory of your life, your career, and the culture of the world we live in.”
He defended Isaacs and echoed her sentiment about change, adding, “This institution doesn’t reflect its president and it doesn’t reflect this room. I am an Academy member and it doesn’t reflect me, and it doesn’t reflect this nation.”
The Academy Awards take place on 28 February (16).
– Cover Media