The Academy Responds to #OscarsSoWhite Criticism

Oscars - Academy Awards

The Board of Governors for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have unanimously approved of sweeping modifications to their voting system in light of the #OscarsSoWhite uproar.

For the second year in a row, African-Americans failed to grab nominations in the four major Oscars categories, prompting anger in the Hollywood community over the lack of diversity in the movie industry. However, last Thursday night decision-makers at the Academy voted to amplify minority representation at their awards show.

USA Today reports leaders have pledged to double the amount of Academy members who are women or people of color by the year 2020.

“The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up,” Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs said in a statement. “These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition.”

The Los Angeles Times newspaper published a report in 2012, which suggested those given the privilege to vote for Academy Awards nominees were 94 per cent Caucasian and 77% male.

The Academy governors have outlined a detailed plan to diversify the institution by their 2020 deadline. Executives have decided to limit the power of members who have not been active in the film industry for extended periods of time – starting later in 2016, and new members will have to renew their membership every 10 years.

Meanwhile, lifetime voting rights will only be extended to Academy members who have qualified for renewal for three consecutive terms.

Shawn Edwards, co-founder of the African-American Film Critics Association, believes this is a tremendous step forward following this year’s Oscars controversy, which has prompted African-American stars like Will Smith, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Tyrese Gibson to boycott the event.

“Right now the academy is too top-heavy old,” Edwards said. “This change means that Academy members can’t necessarily be like a Supreme Court judge and ride this out for life. This will bring a whole different ball game and bring a whole different attitude and generational dynamic, a different appreciation of pop culture.”

African-American filmmaker Ava DuVernay, who many expected to score a Best Director nomination for Selma last year (15), is also pleased with the Academy’s new position on diversity issues.

“One good step in a long, complicated journey for people of color + women artists,” she wrote on Twitter in a message attached to an official letter sent to her from members of the Academy.

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