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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 18 July 2018

Nadine Labaki, Annemarie Jacir and Ziad Doueiri among Academy's new intake of Oscar voters

The organisation that bestows the Oscars invites 928 new members representing 59 countries to join its ranks

Nadine Labaki
Nadine Labaki

Oscar-nominated Lebanese The Insult director Ziad Doueiri and Palestinian filmmaker, poet Annemarie Jacir and Nadine Labaki are among the latest members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, as part of a diversity drive that has seen the Oscar-voting organisation invite over 900 new members to join its ranks.

Palestinian director and writer Annemarie Jacir AFP
Palestinian director and writer Annemarie Jacir AFP

Jacir responded to the news with a fairly straightforward tweet, saying simply "Well hello The Academy."

The director Ziad Doueiri is one of Lebanon's most successful filmmakers. Wael Hamzeh
Lebanese Ziad Doueiri is now a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Wael Hamzeh

Doueiri and Jacir were joined at the Oscars table by Labaki, whose Cannes prize-winning Caphernaum last week sold out its screenings at the Shanghai International Film Festival, and Oscar-nominated Last Man in Aleppo director Feras Fayyad.

The Academy was keen to use the new batch of invitees as evidence of its inclusivity, noting that 49 per cent of the invitees are female and 38 per cent are non-white. Should all the invitees accept, the new class would boost its overall membership to be 31 per cent female and 16 per cent non-white.

"Hey yo. I'm in The Academy," Pakistani-American Kumain Nanjiani, who co-wrote and starred in The Big Sick, tweeted. His wife and co-writer Emily V Gordon was also invited to join.

Others celebrated elsewhere, like Haddish, who got the news from Melissa McCarthy on the set of their upcoming film The Kitchen.

"That super cool," Haddish said in a video capturing the moment. "So I get to vote?" Haddish added, before exclaiming with laughter: "I'm going to get movies for free?"

The film academy in 2016 pledged to double the number of female and minority ranks of its members by 2020. Then 25 per cent of its members were female and 8 per cent were non-white.

Invitees always range from relative newcomers to industry veterans. Some of the youngest prospective members include 22-year-old Call Me By Your Name actor Timothee Chalamet and Beasts of the Southern Wild's Quvenzhané Wallis who, at 14, is the youngest invitee this year. Both were Oscar-nominated for their performances.

This combination photo shows, top row from left, Dave Chappelle, Amy Schumer, Kumail Nanjiani, Jada Pinkett Smith and Timothee Chalamet, and bottom row from left, Kendrick Lamar, Gina Rodriguez, Chloe Zhao, Tiffany Haddish and Sarah Silverman who are among 928 people invited to become members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. AP Photo 
This combination photo shows, top row from left, Dave Chappelle, Amy Schumer, Kumail Nanjiani, Jada Pinkett Smith and Timothee Chalamet, and bottom row from left, Kendrick Lamar, Gina Rodriguez, Chloe Zhao, Tiffany Haddish and Sarah Silverman who are among 928 people invited to become members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. AP Photo 

On the other end of the age spectrum is 84-year-old Gosford Park actress Eileen Atkins. Other highly-recognisable invitees include Dave Chappelle, Jada Pinkett Smith, Amy Schumer, Christine Baranski, Sarah Silverman and Kyra Sedgwick. A batch of The Simpsons stars were also among the acting invitees, for their various film roles, including Julie Kavner, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer and Yeardley Smith.

Both blockbuster and indie films are fair game for academy membership every year too. This year is no exception, with invitations extended to persons in front of and behind the camera of films like Star Wars (including actress Daisy Ridley) and Black Panther (actor Daniel Kaluuya, designer Ilt Jones and writer Joe Robert Cole) to people like the revered, but very niche Hungarian director Bela Tarr.

Notable music invitees include Kendrick Lamar (Black Panther), Melissa Etheridge (An Inconvenient Truth) and Sufjan Stevens (Call Me By Your Name).

Ten of the invitees were invited to join multiple branches, including Nanjiani (for writing and acting), Zhao (for directing and writing) and The Florida Project director Sean Baker (for directing and writing). They will have to select only one branch.

New members will get a chance to celebrate together at private receptions this autumn.

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