Film-maker Steven Spielberg has broken his silence over the lack of diversity among the nominees of the 88th Academy Awards, saying that racism has not been an “inherent or dormant” part of the Oscars as far as history is concerned.
Citing the example of 12 Years a Slave, the three-time Oscar winner said the academy is equal for all, reported The Hollywood Reporter.
“You have to look back a couple of years where Lupita (Nyong’o) was recognised for 12 Years a Slave and it also won Best Picture, you know,” Spielberg said. “I don’t believe that there is inherent or dormant racism because of the number of white Academy members.”
The Schindler’s List director was surprised that Straight Outta Compton was not nominated for Best Picture and Idris Elba never bagged a nomination of Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Beast of No Nation. However, he did not refrain from throwing weight behind the academy. “I’m a huge supporter of the Academy Awards. I was surprised at some of the individuals who were not nominated. I was surprised at [the exclusion of] Idris … I was surprised at that. I think that was one of the best performances in the supporting actor and the actor category, was that of Idris,” he said. He was also all praises for the Felix Gary Gray film. “I’ve seen Straight Outta Compton … my wife and I saw it when it first opened, the first weekend … and it just rocked our world. It was incredible. I was very surprised to see that omission,” he added.
Spielberg, who is nominated this year for Bridge of Spies, opposes taking votes away from retired academy members. “I’m also not 100% sure that taking votes away from academy members who have paid their dues and maybe are retired now and have done great service; maybe they’ve not won a nomination, which would have given them immunity to the new rules, but they have served proudly and this is their industry, too,” he added.
Answering the question whether someone’s race or gender is a consideration for him when he hires them to work in front of or behind the camera, he said, “Look, I have two black children, you know? I’ve been colour blind my entire life. When you just look at the films I’ve made, and look at the people who’ve worked on those films — look at the diversity within the crew, within the cast — I’ve always [had it].”
Spielberg, whose Saving Private Ryan was part of one of the most cut-throat Oscar seasons in history when it competed against Shakespeare in Love 17 years ago, also called for the academy to reform its rules for Oscar campaigning. “There’s a lot of money being thrown at it,” he said. “I’m not gonna sit here and say we should have campaign finance limits the way John McCain was asking for them a couple of years ago during a political cycle. But I do think the amount of, let’s just call it gifts or the amount of enticements, should be reduced to zero. I think the thing I’m against the most is enticements — people sending elaborate brochures and baskets. I think sending out a DVD of your movie is all we should be doing and nothing beyond that. Not the dinners and anything else. I just think that’s a little bit different than the way it used to be.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 15th, 2016.