LONDON – The world’s biggest cinema prizes are trying to end the all-white, all-male shortlists their voting members frequently put up.
Earlier this year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which hosts the Oscars, once again expanded its membership to attract more people of color. Earlier this month, it also introduced diversity criteria for films nominated in certain categories, such as BAFTAs, the main UK film awards.
Today, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), which organizes the awards, announced it is going further.
Beginning with the rewards in 2021, BAFTA’s 6,700 voting members will need to undergo unconscious bias training before voting.
In each category, their initial votes will create a long list (a first for rewards). Members will then have to watch all of the selected titles before they can vote in the next round, which will determine the nominees. The nominees will then move on to the final vote, and again voters will have to watch all films through an online portal (which will guarantee viewing) if they want to have a say. The new rule aims to increase the diversity of films considered: voters short on time might otherwise focus only on the hottest titles.
The BAFTA has also announced more specific interventions for certain price categories. For the best director, for example, half of the places on the top 20 list will go to women. For acting awards, the long list will be selected by a hybrid of member votes and jury selection, before the nominees and winner are determined by the members in subsequent rounds.
Another major change is that a studio will only be able to nominate an actor for one primary or secondary award, not both categories, as previously allowed. Actors will also only be allowed to be registered once in each actor category to prevent this year’s events from happening again, when Margot Robbie was twice nominated for Best Supporting Actress, and no person of color was.
The BAFTA also said it plans to increase its membership by 1,000 members, with targets for under-represented groups, but a spokeswoman declined to give further details.
“This is a watershed moment,” BAFTA president Krishnendu Majumdar said Thursday in a press release announcing the changes. “This creative renewal isn’t just about the changes to the rewards,” he added. “This is a reassessment of our values.”
British cinema awards, like the Oscars, have been criticized several times for their lack of diversity. In 2016, there was a protest outside the awards ceremony when only one black actor, Idris Elba, was nominated in all four actor categories. This year, no person of color was nominated for best actor or best actress, and no woman for best director. The ensuing fury made headlines around the awards and even the ceremony itself.
“I think we’re sending a very clear message to people of color that you are not welcome here,” said Joaquin Phoenix, accepting his best actor award for his performance in “Joker” at the ceremony.
Clive Nwonka, a researcher at the London School of Economics who studies race in the UK film industry, said in a phone interview that many changes to BAFTA were needed, but portrayal on screen and on crews didn’t was not something BAFTA could control. Film studios and funders need to promote more diversity, he said. “What BAFTA offers only works for the agenda of a much more diverse film industry if the production side is also working,” he said.
Marc Samuelson, chairman of the BAFTA film committee, said in an interview with Zoom that the changes would not eliminate the ability for voters to choose all-white or all-male shortlists.
The most significant changes, he said, were the new longlist rule and the requirement that members watch all nominated films in all categories they vote for. These updates are expected to increase the range of movies viewed. “You often hear people say afterwards, ‘Oh, I didn’t have time to watch this, but it was really good and I probably would have voted for it,’” Samuelson said.
According to Freuds, BAFTA’s public relations agency, voting members will need to watch the films through the portal, on a website, which will keep recordings of their viewing to ensure they meet the requirements.
The BAFTA said in a press release that the unconscious bias training – which it calls “conscious voter training” – “will help voters navigate and recognize the broader societal influences that may impact the process. of vote ”.
Samuelson said the training would simply make members think “more deeply about their choices.”
But he wouldn’t comment on whether the Oscars should adopt measures similar to those announced by the BAFTAs on Thursday. “I don’t think it’s up to us to tell them anything,” he said. “BAFTA needs to clean up its side of the street. I really hope this is a good start. “