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Film Academy pledges reforms after all-white Oscars backlash

Published 22/01/2016

A row has broken out over the all-white shortlist for the Oscars
A row has broken out over the all-white shortlist for the Oscars

The Film Academy is pledging to double the number of female and minority members by 2020 following a week-long storm over all-white Oscar nominations.

Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs announced the changes Friday: "The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up," she said in a statement.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' 51-member board of governors unanimously approved a series of reforms to "begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition," Ms Isaacs said. The number of minorities currently serving as members of the academy has not been revealed.

Several of Hollywood's most prominent African-Americans, including Will Smith and Spike Lee, have said they will not attend this year's Oscars, which is to be hosted by Chris Rock.

Other changes include limiting members' voting status to a period of 10 years, to be extended only if the individual remains active in film during that decade. Lifetime voting rights will be granted only to Academy Award nominees and winners, and to members after three ten-year voting terms. Previously, all active members received lifetime voting rights.

The organisation also plans to diversify its leadership beyond the board of governors by adding new members to key decision-making committees, and further diversify its membership with a global campaign to identify and recruit diverse talent.

Reaction came swiftly. Ava DuVernay, director of last year's best picture-nominee Selma, tweeted that the changes were "one good step in a long, complicated journey for people of colour and women artists". She added: "Shame is a helluva motivator.

"Marginalised artists have advocated for Academy change for DECADES," DuVernay wrote. "Actual campaigns. Calls voiced FROM THE STAGE. Deaf ears. Clòsed minds."

And director Rick Famuyiwa, whose films include The Wood, Brown Sugar and last year's Dope commented: "The devil is in the details."

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