#OscarsSoWhite debacle prompts organizers to push for more diverse membership
Organizers of the Oscars, facing an outcry over the lack of diversity on its voting board for the film awards, said on Wednesday it has invited nearly 700 new members with a focus on female and minority talent.
Actors Idris Elba, America Ferrera, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Eva Mendes and this year’s Best Actress Oscar winner Brie Larson were among the 683 potential new members, the academy said in a statement.
Forty-six percent of those invited are female and 41 percent are people of color, aged 24 to 91, said the organization, whose members also include directors, producers, cinematographers and composers.
“This class continues our long-term commitment to welcoming extraordinary talent reflective of those working in film today,” Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs said in the statement.
“We encourage the larger creative community to open its doors wider, and create opportunities for anyone interested in working in this incredible and storied industry.”
All 20 acting Oscar nominees this year were white for a second consecutive year, prompting criticism with the online hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. Oscars host Chris Rock provided biting commentary during the awards show, which was boycotted by director Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith.
The largely white, male and older roster of film industry professionals who belong to the academy has long been cited as a barrier to racial and gender equality at the Oscars.
The organization responded by announcing a sweeping affirmative action program, pledging to double female and minority membership by 2020.
The potential new members would boost the academy’s female roster to 27 percent from 25 percent last year, it said. People of color would make up 11 percent of the total voting body, up from 8 percent in 2015.
If all 683 invited professionals join, the academy would have 7,789 members, it added.
The academy has also introduced new membership rules to help diversify its makeup by stripping some older members of voting privileges.
Under the new rules, lifetime voting rights would be conferred only on academy members who remain active in the film industry over three 10-year terms, or have won or been nominated for an Oscar.
(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Richard Chang)