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The BAFTAs Now Require Diversity for Eligibility

Last year, the controversy known as #OscarsSoWhite arose after it was noted that no actors of color had been nominated. The American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences came under fire for largely ignoring the presence of actors and filmmakers of color and instead awarding their white counterparts. After this controversy, the Academy vowed to add more diverse members to its team, hoping to avoid this kind of situation in the future.

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts has taken this dynamic a step further. It was announced last week that, beginning in 2019, films that do not demonstrate diversity would be denied eligibility for some of the top categories, including Outstanding British Film or Outstanding Debut by a British Director, Writer, or Producer. In order for a film to be considered for one of these awards, it must demonstrate diversity in at least two of these four areas: on-screen characters and themes, senior roles and crew, industry training and career progression, audience access and appeal to under-represented audiences.

This initiative will not only increase diversity in British film, but will likely pull actors of color out of background roles and put them in the spotlight, as well as give crew members more executive involvement.

Much like the American Academy, the British Academy is also taking steps to eliminate bias and reduce nepotism in its voting panel by lifting the requirement that new members must be referred by two existing members to join. This should be beneficial, considering that 43% of new members inducted in 2016 were female, 18% were from a minority ethnic group and the average age was 44.

For the British Academy to initiate such a radical change is truly something special, unfortunately the likes of which have yet to be seen in the American film industry. Many people may see this as an attack on artistic freedom, but in all honesty, it’s not that hard to stop making movies with an entirely white cast. If you’re making a movie that takes place in a country where white people AREN’T the dominate race, maybe you shouldn’t cast the main character as a white person; and if a character is consistently shown as a person of color throughout canon, you ESPECIALLY shouldn’t cast a white person in that movie role. There are very few movies, save period dramas, that one-hundred percent require white people to play specific roles, and there are plenty of qualified filmmakers from various backgrounds that deserve to have their work showcased. Hopefully the British Academy will be a leading example of the steps that can be taken toward diversifying the film industry, and maybe– just maybe– the highly influential American Academy can follow close behind.

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