Following the Twitter outrage against The British Film Academy’s (BAFTA) released nominations, it has agreed to review its voting system. With no people of color included in the acting categories and an all-male assembly for the Best Director nominations, it seems as if history is repeating itself once again after the #OscarsSoWhite backlash in 2016.
Head of BAFTA’s film committee, Marc Samuelson, told Variety that there will be a “careful and detailed review within and outside the membership” which will be enforced just in time for the 2021 nominations. Although he agreed that there is an “infuriating” lack of diversity in this year’s nominations, no changes and amendments will be done this year and countless actors and actresses will remain snubbed for their deserving roles.
Not a SINGLE person of colour was nominated at the BAFTA's this year. They could have nominated Lupita, Awkafina, Zhao Shuzhen, Jennifer Lopez, Cynthia Erivo, Antonio Banderas, Eddie Murphy, or any one of the Parasite actors, they didn't. #BAFTAS #BaftasSoWhite
— Aayaan Upadhyaya (@Aayu17) January 7, 2020
This statement was given in response to the #BAFTAsSoWhite backlash that occurred on Twitter after the release of the nominations. Numerous people criticized The British Film Academy for not only not including any people of colour or ethnic minorities in the nominations line up, but also nominating two actresses twice: Scarlett Johansson for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress and Margot Robbie for Best Supporting Actress (for her roles in Bombshell and Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood). Many speculated that this has been done in order to shut out any potential actresses of colour from the nominations.
There was no space for Cynthia Ervo (Harriet), Jennifer Lopez (Hustlers), Eddie Murphy (Dolemite Is My Name), Awkwafina (The Farewell), who were all given a nod at the Golden Globes’ nominations this year. Some others also brought up the fact that not one actor from Parasite has been nominated and also that Greta Gerwig did not appear in the Best Director line up. The only category that is diverse is Rising Star, which nominated Awkwafina, Micheal Ward and Kelvin Harrison Jr., but most probably only because it is the only category voted for by the public.
#BAFTASSoWhite they nominated the same white woman twice in the same category so they wouldn’t have to give a slot to a deserving actor of color.
— Jefferson Grubbs (@MrScreenAddict) January 7, 2020
Certainly, all awards are created to acknowledge the valuable contribution to the industry and there is no doubt that this year has brought some of the best films to the big screen, with some of the best performances. However, films have been made by women that deserve recognition: take The Farewell, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, The Souvenir and Little Women. As well as performances have been given by actors of colour that deserve at least a nomination nod.
To see such a lack of promotion of diversity nails the point home — the film industry is extremely exclusive, during the awards season. Minority creators are still being discriminated against and their voices are still being muted. Although following the #OscarsSoWhite representation does seem to have improved, according to The Guardian, history tends to repeat itself.
Despite the embraced change by BAFTA, Dr Clive Nwonka, LSE Fellow of film studies, believes that just changing the voting system is not enough to promote an equal valuing of films made by filmmakers from all backgrounds. Without a continuous and systematic movement that reveals the truth about how people of colour and women are treated in the film industry, “we will very likely be having this conversation again in a few years’ time,” he predicted.
Some others believe that a more diverse group of members does not necessarily mean a more diverse nomination line up. An article in spiked opposing this year’s backlash commented on how such change will not guarantee more diversity: “as if black people vote for black films and white people vote for white films.” With a membership of over 7,500 members who vote based on personal preference, the article states that it would be difficult for BAFTA to organise some kind of plot to completely shut out people of colour and women.
Although unconscious racial bias may be to blame, BAFTA actually consists of a more diverse group of members overall than the British industry itself does. Considering how 2019 has been a fantastic year for film, this competition certainly raises the margin for filmmakers during awards season. Following the generally diverse awards from last year, this backlash is countered by stating that this year’s nominations are an issue of who is more talented than whom?
And while it would be incorrect to disagree with the fact that The British Film Academy could not have become racist and misogynist in just one year, it is still alarming to see this lack of diversity in major nomination categories. Race and gender should not be the defining factor in assessing one’s abilities in the film industry and yet, it should also not prevent talented creators from receiving the acknowledgement they deserve.
Featured Image via GQ