Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 17 January 2020

#BaftasSoWhite: Academy to 'review' voting system amid diversity backlash

The head of the academy’s film committee acknowledged the ‘infuriating’ lack of diversity

Scarlett Johansson has received two nominations at this year’s Baftas. EPA
Scarlett Johansson has received two nominations at this year’s Baftas. EPA

Not a single person of colour was nominated across the best actor and actress categories, but the British Academy of Film and Television Arts has vowed to address a lack of diversity for its 2021 awards ceremony.

The Baftas, which will take place on Sunday, February 2 at London’s Royal Albert Hall, have been mired in controversy since nominations for the 2020 awards were revealed on Sunday.

As well as the lack of inclusion in the acting categories, no female directors were nominated for this year’s awards.

Subsequently, the hashtag #BAFTAsSoWhite began trending on social media, echoing the criticism the Oscars faced in 2015 and 2016.

However, the academy has promised to orchestrate a “careful and detailed review” of its voting system, acknowledging the “infuriating” lack of diversity in the 2020 line-up.

“There is absolute openness to change, and the organisation made clear its position on the noms and that it was not satisfied,” Marc Samuelson, the head of Bafta’s film committee, told Variety. “Change is required – what that is, is complex and needs calm, careful thought.”

Samuelson said “everyone who has a view will be heard”, and stated that changes would be made before the 2021 awards.

Currently, all of Bafta’s 6,500 members vote in the first round of nominations for some categories, including Best Film, but only “relevant specialist chapters” and juries vote in categories such as Best Director, the academy’s website stated.

Who is nominated this year?

There are 18 people in the running for the best actor and actress categories this year. Some, such as Margot Robbie and Scarlett Johansson, even have more than one nomination in the race. Notable snubs were Eddie Murphy for Dolemite Is My Name, Lupita Nyong’o for Us and The Farewell’s Awkwafina.

Joker leads this year’s nominations with 11, followed by Netflix crime-drama The Irishman and Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time … In Hollywood, both of which received 10 nominations. All three films are in contention for the Best Film award, along with First World War epic 1917 and South Korean hit and Golden Globe-winner Parasite.

For Sama, a Syrian documentary shot over five years from inside besieged Aleppo, has received four nominations for this year’s Baftas: Documentary, Outstanding British Film, Film Not in English Language and Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer. The sweep of nods makes For Sama the most-nominated documentary in the history of the Baftas.

The EE Rising Star Award is the only category with a diverse list of nominations this year, with stars including Micheal Ward, Kelvin Harrison Jr and Awkwafina.

Lack of diversity 'disappointing'

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 09: Cynthia Erivo attends the Premiere Of HBO's "The Outsider" at DGA Theater on January 09, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images/AFP == FOR NEWSPAPERS, INTERNET, TELCOS & TELEVISION USE ONLY ==
Cynthia Erivo has refused to perform at the 2020 Baftas. AFP

Samuelson’s statement follows comments by Bafta’s chief executive Amanda Berry, who admitted there was “more to be done”.

“The lack of diversity in today’s nominations is hugely disappointing to see,” she said this week. “Our year-round activity has many strands that focus on diversity. It’s clear there is much more to be done and we plan to double down on our efforts to effect real change and to continue to support and encourage the industry on the urgency of doing so much more.”

Cynthia Erivo, who was snubbed for her role as Harriet Tubman in Harriet, has also addressed the lack of diversity, after she turned down an offer to perform at the Baftas, despite not being nominated.

“It’s disappointing to see that we’ve got to this point in time and we’ve had such wonderful advancement in inclusion and diversity, and the films this year were beautiful, such wonderful stories told, and to not have that represented in an awards show like the Baftas is just disappointing,” she told Variety.

“The reason I didn’t perform is because I don’t think it’s proper representation, as a woman of colour, of people of colour in this industry.”

Updated: January 12, 2020 04:45 PM

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