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Steve McQueen Says BAFTAs Will Have ‘No Credibility’ If They Don’t Wake Up to Diversity

The "12 Years a Slave" director says he's "fed up" with the British Academy's inability to be more inclusive with its nominees.

Steve McQueen'Widows' film premiere, Chicago, USA - 13 Oct 2018

Steve McQueen

Cindy Barrymore/REX/Shutterstock

Last week, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts came under fire for featuring wall-to-wall white nominees across its four main acting categories, a result that sparked not only #BAFTAsSoWhite outrage across Twitter, but also encouraged the BAFTAs to review their nomination process. In a recent interview with The Guardian, filmmaker Steve McQueen, who won both the BAFTA Award for Best Film and the Academy Award for Best Picture for “12 Years a Slave” in 2014, said that he, too, is “fed up” with the process.

“After a while you get a bit fed up with it. Because if the BAFTAs are not supporting British talent, if you’re not supporting the people who are making headway in the industry, then I don’t understand what you are there for,” the British filmmaker said. McQueen is calling out the BAFTAs amid a year rife with diverse talent in eligible films. “Unless the BAFTAs want to be like the Grammys, which is of no interest to anyone, and has no credibility at all, then they should continue on this path,” McQueen said, referring to recurring criticism of the Grammys for snubbing black artists in favor of white talent. “If not then they have to change. Fact.”

McQueen in the interview also debunked criticism that the predominantly white nominees across the BAFTAs are an “industry problem,” as suggested by BAFTA chairman Marc Samuelson when the nominations were announced. “When these films are being made to critical acclaim, they’re not even being recognized – that’s nonsense,” McQueen said.

Today’s Academy Award nominations, despite earning Cynthia Erivo the Best Actress nomination the BAFTAs denied her for “Harriet” and “Parasite” earning six nominations including Best Picture, otherwise reflected a dearth of inclusion among the nominees. As IndieWire’s Tambay Obenson wrote of today’s Oscars announcement, “Ultimately, this year’s nominations suggest that the industry continues to undervalue stories that aren’t about and by white men, especially when it comes to awards-caliber work. From the decisions on which projects have been greenlit, to who and what gets nominated, a discriminatory system continues to shut out many groups.”

Last week, Cynthia Erivo voiced her boycott as a performer at the BAFTAs, which invited her to perform her song “Stand Up” from “Harriet” at the ceremony happening February 2. “I felt like [the invitation] didn’t represent people of color in the right light,” she said. “It felt like it was calling on me as an entertainer as opposed to a person who was a part of the world of film, and I think that it’s important to make it known that it’s not something you throw in as a party trick, you know?”

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