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Oscars 2016: Film Academy Responds To #OscarsSoWhite Backlash

Following the backlash over the lack of diversity among the Oscars nominees this year, the Film Academy has tonight announced they would be taking “significant steps” to attempt to “diversify” the membership, including pledging to double the number of female and minority members by 2020.

It will also immediately diversify its leadership by adding three new seats to its board of governors. The timing of such announcements certainly isn’t coincidental; it follows a week-long outcry over the overwhelmingly white Academy Award nominees this year.

The#OscarsSoWhite controversy saw a number of prominent actors protest and slam the Academy for targeting a white minority, including George Clooney, Jada Pinkett Smith, Lupita Nyong’oDavid Oyelowo and Spike Lee.


The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up,” president Cheryl Boone Isaacs announced in a statement this evening. Other changes include limiting members’ voting status to a period of 10 years.

In order to both grow and diversify the voting panel, along with allowing current members to sponsor new members, the Academy is launching a global campaign to recruit new members who they believe “represent greater diversity.”

“This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes,” she said. “The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership. In 2016, the mandate is inclusion in all of its facets: gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation.”

They hope the new rules will double the number of diverse members by 2020. It remains to be seen whether the stars that made the decision to essentially boycott this years Academy Awards will retract their decisions, but this seems unlikely. 

Words are merely words until we see meaningful changes take place. Notably, this is the second year in a row in which all 20 nomination categories dominated by white performers.

George Clooney was also praised for his sobering words: “If you think back 10 years ago, the Academy was doing a better job. Think about how many more African Americans were nominated. I would also make the argument; I don’t think it’s a problem of who you’re picking as much as it is: How many options are available to minorities in film, particularly in quality films?” 

Tonight, actress Charlotte Rampling, who is nominated in Best Actress category this year for her role in 45 Years, waded into the controversy with her words, saying the outcry was unfair to the white actors who were nominated and added that, “It’s racist to white people.”

“We can never know if it was really the case, but perhaps the black actors did not deserve to be in the final straight,” she said.

Her words may not gel well with the majority of her fellow-nominees, who have backed a call for change.  

Read the Academy’s full statement here

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