the baftas just took a big step forward for film diversity

British Oscars so white, but they're doing something about it.

by Hannah Ongley
21 December 2016, 1:12am

Thanks to hashtags like #oscarssowhite, and initiatives to increase diversity within the ranks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences itself, the frustrating lack of diversity in Hollywood is finally getting some attention. But whether that amounts to actual change is a different story. In January, the hashtag first started by editor and activist April Reign was revived when the Academy failed to nominate a person of color for an acting award. And LGBT diversity, according to a recent GLAAD study, is actually getting worse. We'll find out next month whether Barry Jenkins's gay black masterpiece Moonlight gets a nod for the Best Picture award it definitely deserves. Meanwhile, the BAFTAs — aka the British Oscars — have proposed a solution to the UK's own less-than-ideal diversity stats. 

The BBC reports that the UK organization has adopted the BFI Diversity Standards when considering if a film is eligible for two major categories: Outstanding British Film and Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer. As of 2019, films must have demonstrably worked to increase representation of minority groups (people of color, women, LGBTQ people, and disabled people) in two of the following four areas: on-screen representation, themes, and narratives; project leadership and creative practitioners; industry access and opportunities; and opportunities for diversity in audience development. 

The BAFTAs are also working to increase diversity behind the scenes. From 2017 onwards, new members will no longer need to be recommended by two existing members in order to join. "This widens the pool of potential members and ensures that it's only talent, and not also who you know, that enables Bafta membership," the statement said.

According to an anonymous questionnaire issued by BAFTA earlier this year and answered by just under half of its members, 41% of voters were female, 13% were non-white, and the average age was 52. This year's new members are 43% female and 18% non-white with a median age of 44. The Academy, meanwhile, is made up of 23% women and 6% people of color(!) with a median age of 62. Clearly neither breakdown is an accurate reflection of the movie-watching public, but this is a much-needed push in the right direction. 


Text Hannah Ongley
Still from 'Moonlight' (2016)

Oscars So White