Academy President Speaks Out About ‘Selma’ Snub, Lack of Diversity Amongst This Year’s Oscar Nominations

Oscars 2015
What celebs are saying about the nominations.
Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the first black president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, has issued a statement amid the uproar over the lack of diversity in this years’ Oscar nominations.

The Oscars’ 20 acting slots, announced Thursday (Jan. 15), were filled entirely of white nominees, notably for only the second time since 1998. Furthermore, there were no women in the directing or writing categories.

Shortly after the nominations were announced, #OscarsSoWhite began trending on Twitter.

Isaacs released a statement to the Associated Press Friday night (Jan. 16), saying

In the last two years, we’ve made greater strides than we ever have in the past toward becoming a more diverse and inclusive organization through admitting new members and more inclusive classes of members. And, personally, I would love to see and look forward to see a greater cultural diversity among all our nominees in all of our categories.

She added, “It matters that we pay attention to, again, the diversity of voice and opinion and experience, and that it doesn’t slide, it doesn’t slide anywhere except for forward. And maybe this year is more just about let’s kick it in even more.”

The AP reported that a “2012 survey by the Los Angeles Times found the academy was 94 percent white, overwhelmingly male and with a median age of 62. A more recent survey determined the percentage of older white males had dropped by one point, the Times said. But with nearly 7,000 members and no requirement to retire, diversity is going to take some time.”

Al Sharpton was amongst those to angrily react to the nominees list. He said in a statement released the morning of the nomination announcement:

The lack of diversity in today’s Oscar nominations is appalling and while it is good that Selma was nominated for ‘Best Picture,’ it’s ironic that they nominated a story about the racial shutout around voting while there is a racial shutout around the Oscar nominations. With all of the talent in Selma and other Black movies this year, it is hard to believe that we have less diversity in the nominations today than in recent history.

Sharpton added, “The movie industry is like the Rocky Mountains, the higher you get, the whiter it gets.”

Amongst the many snubs at this years Academy Awards was David Oyelowo for Best Actor, whose portrayal of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma received rounds of critical praise, and Selma’s director, Ava Duvernay, for Best Director. Had Duvernay been nominated, she would have made history as the first black female to be nominated for Best Director.

Despite its incredible reviews (a 99% fresh rating amongst critics on rottontomatoes.com, for example), other than a Best Picture nomination, Selma’s only other nod was for Best Song.

Ava Duvernay took the high road, writing via Twitter: “Happy Birthday, Dr. King. An Oscar gift for you. To SELMA cast + crew led by our miracle David Oyelowo! To Common + Legend! Kudos! March on!”

Common, who portrays activist James Bevel in Selma and was nominated for “Glory” (the song he co-wrote with John Legend) remarked, “Selma is very relevant to today’s issues, and for it to be nominated for best picture acknowledged that.” However, he added, “You look at Selma, and I am disappointed that David and Ava were not nominated. You don’t have a best picture without a performance like that and a director like that.”

Boone Isaacs declined to address whether she and the Academy were “embarrassed”, only insisting that she was “proud” for the nominees, all of whom deserve recognition and were nominated purely in a “peer to peer” process, and that there was a lot of competition.

She added, “What is important not to lose sight of is that `Selma,’ which is a fantastic motion picture, was nominated for best picture this year, and the best picture category is voted on by the entire membership of around 7,000 people.”

A statement made by the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition said that the nominations balloting “obviously reflects a lack of diversity in Oscar voters as well as in films generally…It behooves Hollywood – as an economic imperative, if not a moral one – to begin more closely reflecting the changing face of America.”

Gil Robertson IV of Los Angeles’ African American Film Critics Association also said, “Given the environment right now socially, you’d think [academy voters] would be more conscious. There seems to be little thought or consideration on how Selma in particular really does provide an opportunity for people to have some real dialogue about race relations. But once again, that opportunity may not happen.”

While we’d like to think of the Oscar’s as a heralding moment to reflect on the best performances in film over the last year, it is impossible to overlook the lack of diversity clearly evident in this years’ nominations.

It’s disappointing that at this years’ Oscars all 20 acting slot are filled with white nominees, and that the two writing categories are dominated by white men. For another, it’s quite difficult to grasp that no women were nominated in either writing category, or for Best Director.

Nonetheless, Boone Isaac urged people not to be in distress by Selma’s snub, saying “It’s nominated for the Oscar for best picture. It’s an award that showcases the talent of everyone involved in the production of the movie Selma.”