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Yes, the CEO of BAFTA is right to be “disappointed” by this year’s film nominations

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Every actor nominated for this year’s BAFTA awards is white, and no women have been nominated for the best director category for the seventh year in a row. In a year of incredible talent hitting our screens, this is a huge disappointment, writes Leah Sinclair.

Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu has slammed this year’s BAFTA nominations for being “a deliberate dereliction of duty… to honour and recognise diverse outstanding talent in its industry”.

Speaking on Good Morning Britain, she added that “diversity is not just a declaration, it must be a demonstration”.

Dr Mos-Shogbamimu has a point. When awards season rolls around, it’s almost guaranteed that people of colour and women are going to be short changed. It’s an unfortunate reality that we have to acknowledge, but we must continue to push for change.

Since the viral #OscarsSoWhite campaign in 2016, which blasted the lack of diverse nominees, we’ve seen small strides made to increase representation in film. However, when it comes to awards season, this representation is rarely ever reflected – and not due to a lack of brilliant films and talent from non-white and female actors and directors.

Last year alone saw a variety of talent on screen, from women and those of an ethnic minority background. We saw Lupita Nyong’o in Us, Cynthia Erivo in Harriet, Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers, Rapman’s Blue Story, Greta Gerwig’s Little Women and Melina Matsoukas’ Queen & Slim

However, the 2020 BAFTA Award nominations have failed miserably to reflect that diversity.

The nominees were revealed on Tuesday, with Joker leading the pack with 11 nominations. This was followed by Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman and Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood, which have 10 nominations each. Scarlett Johansson and Margot Robbie picked up two acting awards each. 

The entirety of the lead acting categories – which comprised of 20 individuals – were white actors. In addition, there were no female directors nominated for this year’s awards, for the seventh year in a row.

This disappointing lack of inclusion shows just how wrong BAFTA has got it.

Lupita Nyong’o
BAFTA nominations: Talent including Lupita Nyong’o were missed off the nominations.

Ignoring the creative efforts of women and people of colour shows an unwillingness to consider their work as valid and worthy of a nomination. With the plethora of talent on display, there is no excuse for the lack of inclusion, and the disappointing nominations show that as we enter a new decade, there is still a lot of work to do – and it has to start from the top.

As the 2020 Bafta nominations made their rounds, many took to social media to express their disappointment at the continued lack of diversity which often befalls women and people of colour, with #BAFTASSoWhite quickly trending across the UK.

Theatre maker Nadia Latif tweeted: “Those BAFTA nominations are beyond a joke. It’s not funny to ignore the creative efforts of women and PoC artists. It’s not a hashtag. It’s another reminder that this industry does not welcome or want us and does not think we are good enough.”

Writer Amrou Al-Kadhi added: “To be honest, I don’t know why people are so surprised. Intermittent waves of think-pieces about diversity and virtue-signalling tokenistic panels from the industry won’t account for the radical systemic change that’s needed for Film & TV to be genuinely inclusive.”

One of the key points to highlight when calling out underrepresentation at award ceremonies is the question of who is on the voting panel.

Winners and nominees in most categories are voted for by 8,000 BAFTA members, who are industry professionals and creatives around the world. BAFTA introduced a new criteria in 2018 for two awards “to encourage better representation and increased inclusivity across the British industry”, and in December 2019 it expanded its voting pool to increase diversity. 

This saw 559 new members added to the pool, with a recent report suggesting that the overall membership is 43% female and 18% BAME. So why hasn’t this been reflected in the nominations for 2020?

“Clearly everybody knows that everybody in the four acting groups of nominees are white,” said Marc Samuelson, chairman of BAFTA’s film committee. “It’s infuriating, we can’t make the industry do something, all we can do is encourage and push and inspire and try to help people coming in at the bottom end.”

Samuelson’s response is not enough. In 2018, a shocking report found that 94% of all BAFTA film award nominees were white. The analysis, conducted by business psychology firm Pearn Kandola, also reported that 92% of the nominees in the best supporting actor and best supporting actress category were white.

While BAFTA proclaims on its own website that “diversity and inclusion are incredibly important to BAFTA – both in terms of our internal structures as an organisation, but also in the work we do as a charity to develop the film, television and games industries”, the awards have struggled to reflect this. And actions truly speak louder than words.

bafta amanda berry
BAFTA nominations: CEO Amanda Berry was "disappointed" by the lack of diversity in the nominations.

In response to the criticism regarding the lack of female directors nominated this year, BAFTA CEO Amanda Berry said: “Being totally honest, we are disappointed and that is not to take anything away from the people who have nominated.”

Berry also told Sky News: “We did a scheme three years ago to try and support women in the industry, to get them onto the next stage of their career. I think we absolutely need to do more of that, we will do more of it.”

Berry added: “It is changing, but I think we at BAFTA just have to push a lot harder.”

Berry, along with every other major acting award ceremony, do indeed need to push harder.

The film industry can no longer use the excuse that there is a lack of films out there that feature people of colour or are directed by them, or that there are barely any films directed by women.

The tide is changing within the industry and we are seeing more diversity reflected on the screen – but it is crucial that this is also represented at the award ceremonies that people hold so near and dear.

They are worthy and deserving of being celebrated.

And to paraphrase and slightly alter the words of Bong Joon Ho – another person of colour talent who went unacknowledged at this year’s BAFTA’s – once award ceremonies get over the one-inch tall barrier of underrepresentation, they’ll be introduced to so many more amazing films and film talent.

Images: Getty

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