The Academy drives toward diversity

#OscarsSoWh­ite controvers­y has motion picture academy reaching for inclusion & change

- Bryan Alexander

The motion picture academy’s largest and most diverse class of new members will increase its percentage of women and minorities only slightly, but president Cheryl Boone Isaacs says the group’s stated goal of doubling diversity by 2020 is achievable.

“We’re going to just keep going,” she says. “When you set a goal, you want to set a high one. Otherwise, what’s the point? This is a process we’re continuing until 2020. And we won’t stop then, either.”

When pressed for specifics, Boone Isaacs says too much emphasis is being placed on how the academy will hit its diversity goals, and the more important thing is that conversati­ons — and changes — are taking place.

“This isn’t about a ‘finish line.’ This is about a conversati­on that should continue to grow,” she says. “The thing is not about numbers. It really is about inclusion and the conversati­on.”

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Wednesday that it had invited 683 new members — 46% of them women and 41% people of color — to join the voting group that awards the Oscars. If all accept, the percentage of female members and members of color would rise to 27% (up 2%) and 11% (up 3%) respective­ly.

Increasing diversity has been a priority for the group since January, when the #OscarsSoWh­ite controvers­y erupted after all white actors were nominated for a second year in a row.

This year’s invitees include Idris Elba; Star Wars: The Force

Awakens stars John Boyega and Oscar Isaac; Birth of a Nation writer/director Nate Parker; America Ferrera; O’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson; Michelle Rodriguez; and Eva Mendes, along with Creed director Ryan Coogler and star Michael B. Jordan. Boone Isaacs says she’s particular­ly proud of the directors branch, which sees an influx of internatio­nal women among its 91 new members — Haifaa alMansour (Saudi Arabia), Amma Asante (Britain), Naomi Kawase (Japan), Deepa Mehta (India) and Patricia Riggen (Mexico), to name a few. “This year, we wanted to make sure we reached out and say ‘We want you,’ ” she says. The large class has its critics. The Hollywood Reporter wrote that “among the newly invited, there are also a host of people whose merits for inclusion seem hard to defend,” including TV actors (Ferrera), theater stars (Patti LuPone) and filmmakers whose movies “critics deplore and that the academy would never recognize for awards” (Damon Wayans Jr., Keenen Ivory Wayans and Marlon Wayans).

Without addressing names (“It gets into this subjective space that could go on forever”), Boone Isaacs insists high standards were met in all 17 branches. “Each branch sets its criteria for membership,” she says. “Whatever the criteria is, everyone on the list met it.”

The academy will continue to look at existing membership, including moving “inactive” members to emeritus, non-voting status, she says. She adds that the change, while controvers­ial, is a vital part of making sure the academy is in touch with the industry.

“There are people who entered the academy and have moved on to totally other businesses,” she says. “That’s what this is about.”

Most important, she says, the academy is taking part in a larger discussion. “The conversati­on about inclusion and changes ... is so prevalent. Everyone is talking, and that’s a really good thing.”

 ??  ?? John Beyega, left, Michelle Rodriguez and Oscar Isaac invited to join the Academy.
John Beyega, left, Michelle Rodriguez and Oscar Isaac invited to join the Academy.
 ?? USA TODAY ?? Cheryl Boone Isaacs
USA TODAY Cheryl Boone Isaacs

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