By: Christina La Rosa, Contributor
In the wake of criticism over the lack of diversity in the 2018 nominees, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) recently announced new eligibility requirements. These regulations require films to meet two out of four BFI diversity standards in order to qualify for a BAFTA. The requirements include on screen representation, project leadership and creative practitioners, industry access and opportunities, and opportunities for diversity in audience development. The film industry is at a turning point. Greater inclusion and representation is no longer a suggestion; it’s a requirement.
The broadness of the regulations allows for the qualifications to be met in a myriad of ways without restricting creative expression. Nevertheless, the new rules have sparked controversy. Critics argue that the new criteria rewards “political correctness” over merit, but this reasoning fails to acknowledge that diversity and representation are a mark of quality. The BAFTA’s recognition of this reality marks the industry’s attempt to move toward a better future and to hold itself to a higher standard of content. If directors find these vague regulations restrictive, it indicates that they are probably necessary.
The issue of diversity in Hollywood is larger than awards. Hollywood is known for being a closed-shop, backward thinking industry; it is a provincial “white boys club” put in stark relief by the #MeToo movement. Inclusive storylines are suppressed by the industry’s reliance on old themes and narratives. In the award selection process, judges will sift through a large quantity of exclusively white, male centered stories every year, with only a fraction of quality films including a diverse cast. The new requirements are a hopeful sign that underrepresented stories stand a greater chance for selection.
Despite what Hollywood might portray, the world is not exclusively white and male. The film industry succeeds in catering specifically to this audience because films are largely made by white men. Hopefully the BAFTA diversity requirements will encourage studios to consider diversity in their hiring and screenplay selections.
Historically, the majority of diverse cast members often find themselves in roles depicting tired, worn out stereotypes. We desperately need new stories, new perspectives and more realistic characterization. Audiences deserve fresh viewpoints, and, without a doubt, would enthusiastically embrace them. Marginalized audiences deserve to have their stories told as they are perhaps even more important than the dominant narratives that currently flood the industry.
Diversity in Hollywood is not a simple issue. The BAFTA’s new rules are a step in the right direction, but not the solution. Acknowledging the problem is important and will hopefully encourage directors to include more diversity in an industry that has been telling the same, white, male stories for far too long.