So White on the Big Night: Oscar nominations enrage Hollywood’s black community

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© Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty.
Director Spike Lee.

SINCE news broke that director Spike Lee and actor Jada Pinkett Smith will boycott the 88th Academy Awards ceremony in February, Oscars head Cheryl Boone Isaacs has pledged review membership recruitment  and to take “dramatic steps” to “bring about much needed  diversity” in the 2016 class and in years to come. 

This is the second year in a row that the high-profile event has received condemnation for failing to nominate non-white actors, despite a promisingly diverse ceremony in 2014 when Lupita Nyong´o won Best Actress and Steve McQueen won Best Director for 12 Years a Slave.  

The Academy’s 6,300 members, who vote on who should be nominated each year, are film industry insiders, but some have suggested that their predominantly white, male members are effectively writing black actors and directors out of movie history. 

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In the face of the allegations, Cheryl Boone Isaacs argued that over the last four years, the Academy have taken important steps towards diversification within the membership but that “the change is not coming as fast as we would like,” and needs to come “better and more quickly.”

Reports from Hollywood confirm that Ms Boone Isaacs, the first African American to serve as President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), was instrumental in the decision to bring in black comedian Chris Rock to host the show.

Among those who missed out on 2016 nominations were Jada Pinkett Smith´s husband Will Smith, for best actor in sports drama Concussion, and the biopic Straight Outta Compton, the story of the rise and fall of hip hop group N.W.A, for best picture.  

Ms Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee announced their intention to boycott this year´s event on Martin Luther King Day, a national US holiday to honour the heroic civil rights leader. 

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