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Ahead of the Oscars, Joaquin Phoenix Slams Awards Season for Not Including People of Color

"I’m ashamed to say that I’m part of the problem,” Phoenix said while accepting the BAFTA award for Best Actor.

Joaquin Phoenix poses for photographers upon arrival at the Bafta Film Awards, in central LondonBafta Film Awards 2020, London, United Kingdom - 02 Feb 2020

Joaquin Phoenix

Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

Joaquin Phoenix openly criticized Oscar season for not including people of color among nominees while accepting this year’s BAFTA award for Best Actor. The actor, who won the prize for his leading performance in Todd Phillips’ “Joker,” said that by continually shutting out people of color award ceremonies are sending a message to them that they don’t deserve to have a seat at the table. This year’s BAFTA awards did not feature a single nominated actor of color, while the Oscar nominations include just one nominated actor of color (Best Actress nominee Cynthia Erivo for “Harriet”). Women filmmakers did not earn a single Best Director nomination from the Golden Globes, DGA, BAFTAs, or Oscars. The lack of inclusivity across Oscar season nominations has reignited the conversation around diversity and award ceremonies.

“I feel conflicted because so many of my fellow actors that are deserving don’t have that same privilege,” Phoenix told the BAFTA audience. “I think that we send a very clear message to people of color that you’re not welcome here. I think that’s the message that we’re sending to people that have contributed so much to our medium and our industry, and in ways that we benefit from.”

Phoenix continued, “I don’t think anybody wants a handout or preferential treatment, although that’s what we give ourselves every year. I think people just want to be acknowledged, appreciated and respected for their work. This is not a self-righteous condemnation because I’m ashamed to say that I’m part of the problem. I have not done everything in my power to ensure that the sets I work on are inclusive, but I think it’s more than just having sets that are multicultural.”

“We have to do the hard work to truly understand systemic racism,” Phoenix concluded. “I think it is the obligation of the people that have created and perpetuate and benefit from a system of oppression to be the ones that dismantle it. So that’s on us.”

Phoenix has swept the 2019-20 awards season, winning Best Actor prizes from the Golden Globes, SAG Awards, the BAFTAs, and the Critic’s Choice Awards. Phoenix is considered a lock to win his first Oscar for Best Actor at the 92nd Academy Awards this Sunday.

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