Tuesday, December 20, 2016

BAFTA To Shut Out Non-Diverse Films Starting In 2019


Recently, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts which are the British equivalent of the Oscars, have announced a new diversity initiative starting in 2019. The initiative that they are enacting is that any film that doesn't have any inclusivity in front of or behind the camera and doesn't represent different undervalued groups (people of color, women, LGBTQ+ people, disabled people, etc.) will be automatically shut out or disqualified.

This initiative is something that I am actually in favor of. One reason is that they aren't waving fingers at BAFTA voters like what happened with the Oscars this year after #OscarsSoWhite happened the second year in a row. After that whole fiasco, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences made the initiative to include more diverse voters and are changing membership rules to weed out voters that have been inactive in the filmmaking business for a long time and make the voting bodies more diverse because of how the AMPAS is largely made up of old white males.

But the Academy's response was so misguided because they are not the problem. I'm sure there are those within the Academy that are conservative-minded. But that doesn't mean all of them are. The Academy may be trying to make their voting bodies more diverse and I applaud them for it. But if the new diverse voices that they invite aren't seeing themselves on screen, whether they're a person of color or gay or female, what else are they going to vote for? That's the issue people should be looking at. People pointing fingers at the Academy and the Academy fighting within themselves are like people arguing in a bunker while the apocalypse is taking place outside.

The initiative started by the BAFTAs is a way of stepping outside the bunker to fight the apocalypse. By punishing films submitted by the studios making the movies for not being inclusive, it'll hopefully encourage the studios that decide what movies get made and who stars in them to be more inclusive.

I think films should always represent everyone. But this kind of problem isn't fixed overnight. We still have plenty of ways to go. Even though it's 2016, there are still Caucasian actors playing ethnic roles but audiences are sending Hollywood a message by boycotting whitewashed films, hence the box office receipts of films like Aloha, Pan, Gods of Egypt, and Exodus: Gods and Kings. So we're getting there.

Even the BAFTA initiative won't solve the problem overnight but it's a step in the right direction. It's like taking candy from a baby but this is a way to condition the behavior of those that decide what movies get greenlit. I'm a gay man and somebody who enjoys going to the movies. But I am still always flustered at how I'm never seeing myself reflected in mainstream cinema. Whenever gay people are, they are either reduced to stereotypical tokenism, their sexuality is only hinted at, and gay kisses are often used as a comedic punchline and I am absolutely tired of it. The world isn't made up of heterosexual white males and the film industry needs to stop consistently sending that message.

What do you guys think? Do you think this initivative is irrational or understandable? Please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!