The governing body of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the board that officiates the Oscars, has approved what it calls a “sweeping series of substantive changes” following intense criticism over the lack of racial diversity in this year’s nominees.
The board said in a statement that its goal was “to commit to doubling the number of women and diverse members of the Academy by 2020”. The changes also include 10-year limits on the voting abilities of new members of the Academy, which will be removed if the member is not “active in motion pictures” in the intervening time.
“The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up,” president Cheryl Boone Isaacs said in a statement. “These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition.”
The Academy has long been criticised for a lack of racial diversity in those who are nominated for, and win, Academy Awards. No black actors were nominated for either the best actor or actress category of awards for the second year in a row.
A social media backlash followed the announcement of this year’s nominations. The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite began trending worldwide – also for the second year in a row. Actors Jada Pinkett-Smith and Will Smith, as well as director Spike Lee and documentary film-maker Michael Moore, said they would not be attending the awards in light of the lack of recognition of black artists.
“We cannot support it and mean no disrespect to my friends, host Chris Rock and producer Reggie Hudlin, president Isaacs and the Academy,” Lee wrote in a statement. “But, how is it possible for the 2nd consecutive year all 20 contenders under the actor category are white? And let’s not even get into the other branches. 40 white actors in 2 years and no flava at all. We can’t act?! WTF!!”
The initial response to Friday’s announcement was largely positive. Film-maker Ava DuVernay – a black woman whose film Selma was nominated for an Oscar last year, though she did not receive a nod for best director – responded on Twitter calling the move “one small step in a long and complicated journey for people of color [and] women artists”.
“Shame is a helluva motivator,” she continued.
This article was written by Nicky Woolf in San Francisco, for theguardian.com on Friday 22nd January 2016 23.10 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010