Shameful Lack of Diversity Embarrasses BAFTA

Following this morning’s nominations announcement, there was instant alarm at the lack of diversity among the actors and film makers celebrating their undoubtedly deserved nods.

The hashtag #BAFTAsSoWhite began trending pretty quickly when no black faces featured among the 20 acting nominations and no female film maker broke into the boys’ club of Directors – for the seventh year running.

BAFTA Best Supporting Actress Nominees

BAFTA Supporting Actress Nominees

And the problem’s getting worse – it’s less diverse than ever, multiplying, like an officially-sanctioned cloning experiment,  with two Margot Robbies and two Scarlett Johanssons. The supporting actress category is all blonde. Surely there are other sorts of women in the world? 

There are 6,700 BAFTA voters but they seem painfully resistant to the breadth and diversity of what film can and should do.

Surely BAFTA should lead the world in something, not just follow the Oscars and Globes? But I’d like to know where it is taking the lead, then? It’s not in black filmmaking, female directors or global perspective. 

They are rightly pleased with their first new category in 20 years, that of Casting Director and, ironically, there’s a nomination in there for Sarah Crowe and her ‘colour-blind’ casting of Armando Iannucci’s The Personal History of David Copperfield (featured image), which brilliantly puts black and brown and Asian faces in traditionally white roles with no detriment to the film – indeed, it’s a boon – and hopefully that can set the tone for future ‘period’ productions.

Blue Story film still

Blue Story

And maybe casting directors have the future in their hands. But BAFTA could surely do something and nominate a film such as Blue Story, which showcases black talent, new points of view, fresh music, and would of course appeal to a new audience of future film goers and film makers. But no, that’s a missed opportunity, a huge one. 

Other British films with diverse, youthful outlooks include Animals, Beats, The Last Tree, Dirty God, The Souvenir… all of these films are honestly just as good as those that have been nominated and they reflect Britain and British film culture just as well. 

Not that the nominated Bait, or For Sama (four nominations right there for remarkable Syrian Waad al-Kateab) or even Rocketman aren’t worth celebrating. I’m not sure The Two Popes is really the best in British filmmaking at all, but it’s in there.

It’s a strong year, says everyone defending the process, but it actually isn’t and the spotlight will be on the usual types on the red carpet on Feb 2.

Just as journalists have a duty to call out these continual oversights, BAFTA voters clearly have a duty to address their own unconscious bias. 

I’d like to see our flagship film awards get much more global. They’re in London, which is one of the most diverse cities on earth and would be the perfect place to shake up the ‘awards season’ staleness. Diversity isn’t just about colour and gender – it’s about class, national borders, seeing the world from different perspectives and in different languages. We need to open up about the way we see our world reflected in movies. So, excellent Korean film Parasite making it in Best Film is a positive sign. 

BAFTA is taking steps but they are too small and too slow and the faces there at the nominations should have been redder than the famous carpet they precede.