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Academy President Says She’s “Heartbroken” Over Lack Of Diversity In Oscar Nominees, Promises “Dramatic Steps”

Academy President Says She's "Heartbroken" Over Lack Of Diversity In Oscar Nominees, Promises "Dramatic Steps"

With Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith announcing they’re boycotting the Oscars, #oscarssowhite still trending, and the conversation this year less about celebrating the Oscar-nominated films than questioning the process which has left people of color underrepresented among nominees, it was likely only a matter of time until the Academy itself responded.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs addressed the situation in an open letter posted to Twitter, revealing she’s been feeling “both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion.” Moreover, she promised “dramatic steps” in the coming year to diversify the ranks of Academy membership. Here’s Isaacs’ open letter: 

I’d like to acknowledge the wonderful work of this year’s nominees. While we celebrate their extraordinary achievements, I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion. This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes. The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup 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.
As many of you know, we have implemented changes to diversify our membership in the last four years. But the change is not coming as fast as we would like. We need to do more, and better and more quickly.
This isn’t unprecedented for the Academy. In the ’60s and ’70s it was about recruiting younger members to stay vital and relevant. In 2016, the mandate is inclusion in all of its facets: gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. We recognize the very real concerns of our community, and I so appreciate all of you who have reached out to me in our effort to move forward together.

But is it enough? While ensuring the body of the Academy is much more reflective of society at large is a step in the right direction, the bigger issue is that you can’t nominate more women or people of color if they are not being hired at a greater rate in front of and behind the camera and their stories aren’t being told in Hollywood productions. This is an issue that affects the industry as a whole, and will require some serious thinking in the upper branches of every studio around town, about what kind of movies they want to produce in the 21st century.

As for the Academy there are other things they can do to spur a more diverse array of nominees, including opening up the Best Picture field to a hard 10 nominees instead of a fluctuating 5-9 roster each year. One can’t help but wonder if “Creed” and “Carol” — two pictures in particular that many felt were unjustly snubbed — would’ve filled those last two slots in this year’s nominations had there been a full 10 nominees.

Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

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