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Ava DuVernay Says Some of the Oscars Telecast Backlash ‘Minimizes the Meaning of True Exclusion’

Academy governor DuVernay calls attention to how exclusion "has a particular and heightened meaning to many" — and not just those Oscar nominees affected by the recent category shake-up.

Ava DuVernay arrives at the fourth annual Celebration of Black Cinema & Television at the Fairmont Century Plaza Hotel on Monday, Dec. 6, 2021, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Ava DuVernay

Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Three weeks out from the Oscars telecast, and uproar continues to reign within the Academy over its decision to exclude eight key categories from the live ceremony and instead weave them as pre-recorded segments into the broadcast. The move came in response to last year’s record-low ratings for the pandemic show at L.A.’s Union Station, and in hopes to keep audiences engaged throughout the three-hour-and-counting show. Now, a new story in The Hollywood Reporter details infighting among Academy members and governors over the Academy’s decision, and over the industry reaction and backlash itself.

The article highlights an online dispute between one Academy governor, Oscar-nominated filmmaker (“The 13th”) and ARRAY distribution and production founder Ava DuVernay, and music branch governor Laura Karpman. When Karpman took to social media to protest the decision to “exclude” the Best Original Score category from the live broadcast, DuVernay called attention to how the word “excluded” carries a deeper weight with regards to who gets a place at the table in Hollywood and at the Oscars.

“Respectfully, and I had no part in the decision, but the word ‘excluded’ is a powerful one for many,” DuVernay, a governor in the Directors branch, commented on Karpman’s Instagram post. “It has a particular and heightened meaning to many.”

DuVernay went on to point out that recipients in the eight categories — documentary short, film editing, makeup/hairstyling, original score, production design, animated short, live-action short, and sound — will get their moment in the show regardless of these awards not being presented live. (The awards will be presented prior to the ceremony’s start time at 5 p.m. ET in the Dolby, and then unveiled throughout the telecast.)

“And as the music branch winners and nominees and speeches will be fully included in the broadcast, I think it’s important to call things by their right name so as not to minimize the meaning of true exclusion in these spaces,” she said.

IndieWire has reached out to DuVernay’s representatives for additional comment.

DuVernay is a longtime champion of diversity in her filmmaking and storytelling, from founding ARRAY to directing “Selma” (which was nominated for two Academy Awards, including Best Picture, winning Best Original Song). Her remarks come at a time when diversity among Oscar nominees, despite its vastly diversified body of voters ever since #OscarsSoWhite invited an opportunity for progress, remains in question. As IndieWire’s Tambay Obenson wrote, the Best Actress race, for one, continues to be a problem. A woman of color has not won in this category since Halle Berry’s “Monster’s Ball” victory in 2002. A surprise snub this year was Jennifer Hudson for her performance as Aretha Franklin in “Respect.”

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