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Emma Thompson on the Lack of Diversity in Film, Plus Diversity at the BAFTAs

Emma Thompson spoke to On Demand Entertainment about how important things like the Evening Standard’s British Film Awards are, because they shine a spotlight on their national industry skill at crafting mid-budget “proper, grown-up dramas.” The conversation turned briefly to the worldwide diversity conversation happening in the film now, and she had a very unusual solution regarding the “old, white men” that make up much of the Academy.

Obviously, her comment was tongue-in-cheek. I’m sure she’s not actually proposing we “kill them all slowly” as a solution. Still, she has a point about the make up of the Academy. And it’s not like they’re this Evil Cabal sitting around twirling mustaches as they’re trying to figure out ways to keep women and people of color out of the industry – it’s more about the fact that people are conditioned by a systemically racist and sexist system (both in the film industry and outside of it) to “write what they know,” or otherwise only identify with people of their own experience so that, with so many older white men making decisions, many keep subconsciously looking for themselves in the projects they nominate. And the cycle continues except for the occasional anomaly.

Like I said, this is a worldwide conversation. It’s not just the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that’s involved  – it’s also the awards given by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTAs).

So, are #BAFTAsSoWhite? This year, the BAFTAs are doing slightly better than the Oscars in that Idris Elba is nominated for his performance in Beasts of No Nation in a category that also includes Benicio del Toro for his role in Sicario. Still, last year they were as lily-white as the Oscars were, despite the fact that Selma starred a British actor (David Oyelowo) and was produced by a British company (Pathe UK).

As reported in The Hollywood Reporter, BAFTA head Amanda Berry downplays the role of race in the voting process, attributing 2015’s lack of diversity to the fact that it was “a strong year for biopics” (uh, one of which was Selma, which wasn’t nominated. Ahem.). As THR points out:

It appears that 2016 is another strong year for biopics, but where the all-white lineups of The Danish Girl, Steve Jobs, Spotlight and Bridge of Spies have several noms each at the BAFTAs, there’s nothing for Straight Outta Compton, which, incidentally, earned more at the box office.

There are currently no official statistics as to the demographics of the BAFTA voting body, so the organization has asked members to participate – voluntarily and anonymously – in a survey designed to get clearer on what the BAFTA make-up is.

That’s a small step toward some larger change. Hopefully.

(featured image via screencap)

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