The Academy’s first black president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, tackled backlash from this year’s exceedingly white slate of Oscar nominees in an interview with the Associated Press Friday night, pledging greater outreach to women and minorities.
“In the last two years, we’ve made greater strides than we ever have in the past toward becoming a more diverse and inclusive organization through admitting new members and more inclusive classes of members,” Boone Isaacs told the AP. “And, personally, I would love to see and look forward to see a greater cultural diversity among all our nominees in all of our categories.”
Not a single actor or actress of color was recognized by the Academy this year, despite a number of acclaimed films featuring non-white casts and directors. Many prominent industry figures, including George Lucas and Spike Lee, blasted the Academy for ignoring Selma director Ava DuVernay and actor David Oyelowo, who portrayed Martin Luther King, Jr. in the widely praised film.
Boone Isaacs dismissed the idea that Selma was snubbed, saying, “It’s nominated for the Oscar for best picture. It’s an award that showcases the talent of everyone involved in the production of the movie ‘Selma.'”
Selma‘s Best Picture nomination made Ava DuVernay the ninth woman to direct a Best Picture nominee yet be denied a Best Director nomination.
Though Boone Isaacs may be “committed to committed to seeking out diversity of voice and opinion,” the Academy she oversees has maintained its traditional makeup; its members are 93 percent white and 76 percent male. Part of the problem, as Boone Isaacs pointed out, is that existing members recruit new ones, meaning they are drawn from overwhelmingly white and male networks.
Yet the people filling the theaters have changed. Most moviegoers are women, while Latinos are one of the fastest growing audiences, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. Filmmakers and studios are beginning to realize they can profit from putting more minorities and women on the screen in roles that are not stereotypical or objectified. The Academy, however, hasn’t quite caught up.
“It matters that we pay attention to, again, the diversity of voice and opinion and experience, and that it doesn’t slide, it doesn’t slide anywhere except for forward,” Boone Isaacs said.