The Academy behind the Oscar awards has announced that it will drastically diversify its membership. This year, black actors have called for boycotts, while white actors have criticized the action as "reverse racism."
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said on Friday that it will increase the double the number of members who are minorities and women by 2020. The move comes after a week of harsh criticism inside and outside Hollywood.
Additionally, the Academy said it will "take immediate action to increase diversity" in its board by adding three new seats which are open to women and minorities who are not already Academy governors.
Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who is African-American and has come under fire for the nominations, said: "These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition."
She added, "The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up."
The Academy's 51-member board of governors unanimously approved the reforms late on Thursday. The number of minorities currently serving as members of the academy has not been revealed.
'It's racist to whites'
For the second year in a row, the Academy is facing censure for not including any actors or filmmakers of color in this year's Oscar nominations. Actor Will Smith, his wife Jada Pinkett Smith, director Spike Lee, and filmmaker Michael Moore have already announced they will not attend the awards ceremony.
Reactions to the new measures came quickly. Ava DuVernay, director of last year's best picture-nominee "Selma," tweeted her approval of the new measures, adding in a subsequent tweet: "Shame is a helluva motivator."
However, some actors criticized the calls for boycotts, saying the responses are a form of discrimination towards whites.
British actress Charlotte Rampling, who is nominated for a best actress award this year for her role in "45 years" - said on Friday: "It's in the other direction, it's racist... to whites."
You can never know for sure, but maybe black actors did not deserve to be in the final selection," added Rampling, 69, in French on Europe 1 radio.
In another interview on Friday, two-time Oscar winner Michael Caine also weighed in on the debate, telling BBC Radio 4: "You can't vote for an actor because he's black."
The new rule changes will not affect this year's Oscars award ceremony, which will take place on February 28.
rs/bw (AP, AFP, Reuters)