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BAFTA Head Calls Out ‘Infuriating Lack of Diversity’ After All-White 2020 Acting Noms

BAFTA film committee chair Marc Samuelson says the film industry is not moving as fast as the BAFTA team would like.

Editorial use only. No book cover usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by C Barius/Universal/ILM/Kobal/Shutterstock (10162635l)Lupita Nyong'o as Red'Us' Film - 2019A family's serenity turns to chaos when a group of doppelgängers begins to terrorize them.

Lupita Nyong’o as Red in Universal’s “Us”

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The 2020 BAFTA nominations have ignited backlash across the film industry for failing to nominate any women filmmakers in the Best Director category and shutting out actors of color in the four major acting races: Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress. The nominations are not sitting right with Marc Samuelson, chair of BAFTA’s film committee. Samuelson slammed the all-white and male-heavy 2020 nominations in a statement to Variety, although he suggested the issue lies more with the film industry at large than the BAFTA organization itself.

“Infuriating lack of diversity in the acting noms,” Samuelson said. “It’s just a frustration that the industry is not moving as fast as certainly the whole BAFTA team would like it to be.”

Samuelson added that it was “very disappointing” to have an all-male best director category. “BAFTA can’t tell the studios and the production companies who they should hire and whose stories should get told,” he said. “All BAFTA can do is try to lead and push and it’ll have to carry on pushing.”

As many on social media have pointed out, the film industry did have an abundance of acclaimed female-directed films in 2019 that the BAFTA members overlooked in favor of its all-male nominees, which include Sam Mendes (“1917”), Martin Scorsese (“The Irishman”), Todd Phillips (“Joker”), Quentin Tarantino (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”), and Bong Joon Ho (“Parasite”). Movies like “Booksmart” (Olivia Wilde) and “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” (Celine Sciamma) received BAFTA noms elsewhere but their filmmakers were shut out of the Best Director race. The BAFTAs have continuously failed to nominate female filmmakers for its directing prize. Greta Gerwig was infamously shut out of the 2018 race for “Lady Bird” and she was excluded once again in 2020 for “Little Women.”

“We would like there to be more diversity in the nominations, but this continues to be an industry-wide issue,” Emma Baehr, director of awards and membership, also told Variety. “We’d like to see more diverse nominations and we will work harder and push the industry more. But that shouldn’t take away from those who were nominated [this year].”

The acting nominees failed to include a single actor of color, which is especially egregious in a year where performances by Lupita Nyong’o (“Us”), Cynthia Erivo (“Harriet”), Jennifer Lopez (“Hustlers”), Antonio Banderas (“Pain and Glory”), Awkwafina (“The Farewell”), Eddie Murphy (“Dolemite Is My Name”), and more not only received universal acclaim but also earned nominations from precursor awards bodies such as the Golden Globes and SAG Awards. It’s not like any of these performances were underdog contenders, and while it’s impossible to expect all of these actors to land nominations it’s shocking BAFTA didn’t at least recognize one or two. Lopez has been a nominee at every major show this season but was left out in favor of two Margot Robbie performances (“Bombshell” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”).

The 2020 BAFTA Awards are set to take place February 2.

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