Oscars president Cheryl Boone Isaacs vows more diversity

Black director and actress vow to boycott ‘lily-white’ ceremony

The Oscars need a major shake-up, the Academy Awards chief has said, amid a growing row over the lack of black stars in this year’s nominations.

Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences president Cheryl Boone Isaacs issued a statement promising more diversity after director Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith both said that they will boycott this year’s ceremony.

In a lengthy Instagram post, Lee said he “cannot support” the “lily-white” Oscars.

Noting that he was writing on Martin Luther King Jr Day, Lee — who in November was given an honorary Oscar at the Governors Awards — said he was fed up.

“Forty white actors in two years and no flava at all,” he wrote. “We can’t act?!”

Oscars president Cheryl Boone Isaacs vows more diversity

In a video message on Facebook, Pinkett Smith also said she would not attend or watch the Oscars next month.

Pinkett Smith, whose husband, Will Smith, was not nominated for his performance in the NFL head trauma drama Concussion, said in a video it was time for people of colour to disregard the Academy Awards.

“Begging for acknowledgement, or even asking, diminishes dignity and diminishes power,” she said. “And we are a dignified people and we are powerful.

“Let’s let the Academy do them, with all grace and love. And let’s do us differently.”

The video had amassed 4.5m views by mid-Monday afternoon.

Last year’s all-white acting nominees also drew calls for a boycott, though not from such prominent individuals as Lee and Pinkett Smith.

Whether it had any impact or not, the audience for the broadcast, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, was down 16% from the year before — a six-year low.

Isaacs has made a point of presenting a more inclusive show this year.

Oscars president Cheryl Boone Isaacs vows more diversity

The February 28 broadcast will be hosted by Chris Rock and produced by Django Unchained producer Reginald Hudlin and David Hill. On Saturday, Rock, unveiling a new promotion for the broadcast, called the ceremony “The White BET Awards”.

When Oscar nominations were announced last Thursday, Ms Isaacs acknowledged she was “disappointed” that all 20 acting nominees were again white and promised to “continue the conversation” on diversity.

She has worked to diversify membership for the Academy, which a 2012 study by the Los Angeles Times found is overwhelmingly white and male.

But Ms Isaacs has been more explicit and promised an examination of the Academy and a more intense drive to diversify.

“This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes,” she said.

Oscars president Cheryl Boone Isaacs vows more diversity

“The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the make-up of our membership. In the coming days and weeks we will conduct a review of our membership recruitment in order to bring about much-needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond.”

Many had predicted nominations for Idris Elba for Beasts Of No Nation and Benicio Del Toro for Sicario.

The NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton also failed to earn a best picture nomination. Ryan Coogler’s acclaimed Rocky sequel Creed scored only one nomination — for Sylvester Stallone.

Lee’s movie, the Chicago gang violence hip-hop musical Chi-Raq also went unnoticed.

The hashtag OscarsSoWhite, created last year, was quickly resurrected online following the nominations.


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