That the film industry has a diversity problem is nothing new — it’s about as harped upon as the miserable homogeneity within Silicon Valley. But awards season brings into sharp relief the lack of racial variety within Hollywood, and this year marks the second in a row in which all 20 actors nominated in the leading and supporting categories were white. Now, Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs has addressed the startling yet painfully stagnant issue, telling Deadspin, “Of course I am disappointed.”
In spite of her frustration, Isaacs says, “This is not to take away the greatness [of the films nominated]. This has been a great year in film, it really has across the board.” But that’s exactly the issue — despite the wide range of excellent films released this year, those that were ultimately selected as nominees for the highest honor in the industry shared one thing in common — whiteness.
Other than the resounding success of Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárittu (born in Mexico City, Mexico) with The Revenant, few other films with diverse casts or directors were acknowledged. Straight Outta Compton, Concussion, and Beasts of No Nation received little recognition despite wide critical acclaim (although it should be noted that the white screenplay writers behind Compton have a nomination). And while neither leading actor Michael B. Jordon or director Ryan Coogler of Creed weren’t nominated, white costar Sylvester Stallone is up for Best Supporting Actor.
Many of these snubs are made all the more frustrating by the fact that other organizations have honored some of these film stars. Idris Elba has been nominated for a Golden Globe, BAFTA, and Screen Actors Guild Award for Beasts of No Nation, and Will Smith was nominated for a Golden Globe in Concussion. Neither of them, however, were recognized by the Academy.
“You are never going to know what is going to appear on the sheet of paper until you see it,” said Isaacs, noting that the industry, and the Academy in particular, have a lot of work to do when it comes to diversity. “We have got to speed it up.”