Oscars not so white in 2017

Following Tuesday (January 24) morning’s Academy Award nominations announcement, AMPAS president Cheryl Boone Isaacs and Gil Robertson, the president of the African American Film Critics Association react to the increased diversity across the categories.

(AMPAS POOL) – After the 2016 Academy Awards being marred by the “Oscars So White” campaign because all the acting nominees were Caucasian, the nominations on Tuesday morning (January 24) appeared to show that progress had been made with a number of people of color being announced as nominees.

However, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who is the president of AMPAS, the organisation behind the awards, believed that the increase in diversity in the nominations wasn’t a reaction to the previous year’s controversy.

Speaking a few hours after the announcement, she told Reuters “As each year, there’s always tremendous work this year. Just as the cycles do go there’s quite a bit of inclusion and there was a response to it.”

Gil Robertson, who is the president of the African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA), agreed with Boone Isaacs but welcomed the news of the announcements.

“This time last year, most of these films that are out now were already in the pipeline,” he stated outside the Academy headquarters. “It takes a long time to get a movie made, so those films were in progress. They just so happen to come out over the past 12 months. There’s still a long way to go as witnessed by the outcries of the Asian community, the Asian American community in regards to recent films that don’t offer the type of representation that many of them would like.”

Boone Isaacs explained that the change in the format of the announcement – moving from a live announcement to a pre-recorded one being made by previous nominees, and also distributed online – was at the forefront of a strategy for the Academy to be more international.

“Well that’s been one of our major initiatives over the last number of years,” she said. “We are a global organization and we are punctuating that. We want to reach out to great filmmakers from around the world. We want to include them in the conversation of film. We’ve brought many, as you well know, into the Academy as members, so many of them had no idea they could become members of the Academy and so we did a lot of work this year to encourage people to become members and to get that word out because we want that conversation because it is a global medium, more and more and more each day.”

“Hollywood is going to have to pay a lot more attention to foreign markets, to the world that we live in,” commented Robertson. “A big percentage of the dollars that are generated by US studios come from overseas and so with that knowledge you have to be aware and be willing to service those communities.”

Despite the increase in diversity in the nominees, Najee Ali, who was one of the organizers of last year’s Oscars boycott, has decided to once again protest the Academy as diversity was mostly only represented by the African American community.

“I’m very hopeful, I’m very optimistic because I know things have changed,” he said before beginning his protest. “They changed because we made them change through protests and boycotts and being in the streets and that’s why we continue to make change by being in front of the Academy, having another boycott of the Oscars until everyone’s story is told and true diversity is something that’s common throughout Hollywood, not just black and white.”

“We’re hopeful that this is the start of something that will be ongoing and continuous and something that in five or 10 years we won’t even need to talk about because it will just be a given,” said Robertson. “It’s a good first step. The Academy has certainly shown great leadership within the industry with the moves that it’s making and now it’s time for the studios to follow suit.”

The 89th annual Academy Awards take place on Sunday, February 26 in Los Angeles.