The controversy around the lack of diversity in the Oscars has been a long standing issue in the film industry, with recurring accusations of underrepresentation or neglect of the work done by people of color during the selection process.
In response, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has introduced diversity rules aiming to promote and achieve equal representation in the industry. The implementation of these rules has sparked debates and fueled conversations around the significance of diversity in the film industry in accurately reflecting the diverse society we live in, and the importance of providing equal opportunities to underrepresented individuals.
The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences found itself in deep waters after receiving severe censure for its lack of inclusivity.
This is due to the fact that in 2015, all the 20 actors nominated in lead and supporting roles were white, which was the second year in a row such an occurrence took place. This imbalanced nomination stirred massive discontent, which led to the creation of a Twitter hashtag, #OscarsSoWhite, by media strategist and diversity and inclusion advocate April Reign, who runs BroadwayBlack.com.
The "White Oscars" is a term used to describe the recurring trend at the Academy Awards of predominantly nominating and awarding white individuals in significant categories while disregarding or disregarding the efforts of people of color.
Although a hiatus was taken in 2020 owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the term "White Oscars" gained traction again, with only one black actor nominated for a supporting role at the 2021 Academy Awards, and no actor of color being among the nominees for the BAFTA. These incidents have sparked renewed calls for greater representation and opportunities for underrepresented groups in the film industry.
In an effort to promote inclusivity and diversity, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has unveiled new standards that films must follow to qualify for the Best Picture category at the prestigious Oscars, beginning in the year 2024.
Films must satisfy at least two out of four criteria to be considered.
1) Standard A necessitates that leading or notable supporting actors from underrepresented racially or ethnically groups appear in the film, coupled with a storyline that centers around those from women, LGBTQ+, disabled, or underrepresented groups.
2) Standard B insists that people from underrepresented backgrounds assume at least two leading creative roles, e.g., cinematographer, composer, director, and producer. Additionally, at least six team members from minority backgrounds must be involved in the movie.
3) Standard C mandates that film companies must offer training or apprenticeships for underrepresented groups involved in Production/Development, Physical Production, Post-Production, Music, VFX, Marketing, Publicity, and Distribution.
4) Standard D necessitates significant representation from minority groups in the marketing, publicity, and distribution crew. The motive behind these standards is to increase representation and opportunities for underrepresented groups in the film fraternity. The Academy has assured to provide support and guidance to filmmakers regarding these criticisms.
Following the implementation of the new diversity and inclusion standards, there has been criticism from some actors, such as Richard Dreyfuss. In a CNN interview, Dreyfuss expressed his disapproval, stating that the rules "make me vomit." He added that he does not believe that any particular group, whether it be a minority or majority, should be catered to in that manner.
The new rules have provoked mixed reactions from people across the industry, with some lauding the Academy for taking steps to address the issue of underrepresentation of minority groups, while others suggesting that these standards could lead to forced diversity and a reduction in artistic freedom.
It is critical to note that while Hollywood has succeeded in maintaining diversity despite occasional abnormalities in the Oscar nominations, Bollywood has yet to achieve any level of meaningful representation. Even lead roles in Bollywood movies are often portrayed by actors belonging to dominant castes or religions, leaving minority groups severely underrepresented.
However, in recent years, there has been a slight shift, with directors from marginalized communities such as PA Ranjit and Nagraj Manjule emerging on the scene. These filmmakers, themselves from marginalized communities, have been able to bring a new perspective to their films and highlight the experiences of Dalits. Despite this, there is still a long way to travel before Bollywood can be said to have made considerable strides towards inclusivity and diversity.
The Hindi film Jhund, directed by Nagraj Manjule, is an excellent example of efforts towards inclusivity in Bollywood. The film experimented by casting actors who had lived in slums rather than professional actors, while casting legendary actor Amitabh Bachchan as the lead role. Rapper Vipin Tatad, who wrote and performed a rap song for the movie, belongs to a low-income Dalit family and expressed his gratitude towards Manjule for recognizing his talent and giving him a chance. Tatad also shared that there are numerous such talents in the slums belonging to marginalized communities who need a chance to showcase their skills and have the potential to make it big in Bollywood if given the opportunity.
It is hoped that with the implementation of the "diversity rules" in the Oscars in 2024, Bollywood will follow suit and take measures to encourage more inclusive and diverse representation in its films. By promoting and supporting talented individuals from underrepresented communities, Bollywood has the power to play a significant role in the fight for equality and representation in the Indian film industry.
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