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Oscars announce diversity criteria for best picture

Sabine Oelze
September 9, 2020

The Academy Awards have reacted to yearslong protests demanding greater equality for women, minorities and LGBT+ individuals, among others.

Oscar statues stand in a row, with one trophy in the foreground
Image: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/dpa/picture alliance

The most important award ceremony in cinema is no stranger to criticism: too white, too male, too lacking in diversity — these are just some of the recent accusations lobbed at the Oscars. Some critics have even said the awards are unnecessary.

On Tuesday, in a definitive reaction, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, whose roughly 9,000 members determine the award winners, announced historic reforms.

Starting in 2024, all films hoping to qualify for the best picture award — the Academy Awards' most prestigious honor — must meet new diversity requirements that apply to positions both in front and behind the camera.

Since 2010, up to 10 films have been nominated each year for the Oscar in this category. The winner of last year's best picture award, the South Korean drama Parasite, about social inequality, had already suggested a change in direction, as it was the first non-English-language movie to receive the best picture trophy.

Bong Joon Ho and Team at the Oscar award ceremony after winning best picture for 'Parasite'
'Parasite,' from director Bong Joon-ho and his team, made history in February this year when it won the best picture prizeImage: Getty Images/AFP/V. Macon

Oscars move to back equality and inclusion

"The aperture must widen to reflect our diverse global population in both the creation of motion pictures and in the audiences who connect with them," Academy President David Rubin and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson said in a joint press statement. "We believe these inclusion standards will be a catalyst for long-lasting, essential change in our industry."

The criteria for best picture consideration will be based on four different overarching standards. Producers must fulfill two of the standards. This can be achieved in various ways, including by featuring a lead actor from an underrepresented minority group, focusing the storyline on such groups, pulling together a production team made of diverse individuals, or providing training opportunities to members of underrepresented groups.

Such underrepresented groups include Black, Hispanic and Native American populations, among others, as well as LGBT+ individuals and people with disabilities.

While the criteria will only fully go into effect in two years' time, producers must submit a confidential form about inclusion standards for best-picture consideration in 2022 and 2023.

Multiple efforts to improve diversity in Hollywood

The academy announced in June that it had created a task force to address equality and diversity. It came weeks after the death of African American George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that triggered global anti-racism protests.

Following the #OscarsSoWhite social media campaign in 2015, the academy has sought to diversify its members. It fulfilled its goal of doubling the number of women and non-white members by 2020; 45% of this year's members are women and 36% are minorities.

Oscars Protest Oscarssowhite
In 2015 protests demanded more racial diversity in the Oscars using the hashtag #OscarssowhiteImage: picture-alliance/dpa/E. Garcia

The academy has also recently begun hosting virtual panel discussions under the motto, "It starts with us" for its members and the public that focus on the need for industry-wide change to further diversity and equality.

Adapted by: Cristina M. Burack