BAFTA chair Krishnendu Majumdar has described the “collective grief” experienced by him and members of the academy, during meetings that are part of its wide-ranging diversity review stemming from a not very diverse pool of 2020 film award nominations.
“I chaired the majority of the 50 plus meetings, and some were a very emotional experience,” wrote Majumdar in a letter to BAFTA members. “In several meetings I broke down and wept as I heard some of the stories of how some people had been treated by the industry. The collective grief was overwhelming and a strong picture emerged of the lost generation of people of color, careers and lives blighted by racism. We heard similar evidence from many other under-represented groups who have been excluded by the industry, including female directors, LGBTQI+ and disabled creatives.”
On the death of Chadwick Boseman, Majumdar wrote: “One key refrain that came out of our discussions was the idea that ‘representation matters.’ We’ve been starkly reminded of that with the death of the actor and producer Chadwick Boseman. His brilliant career was tragically cut short, but not before it had smashed myths and broken many barriers down. He proved that skin color was far less a factor in box-office appeal than the industry had thought. His dazzling, multi-faceted career has opened the door for other actors of color and diverse stories to be played in the mainstream. He genuinely changed the game.”
However, Majumdar also highlighted the fact that not all members are comfortable with the review. “Some of our long-standing members have reached out and said they are worried about the changes being discussed. It makes them feel unsure of their place within the academy. They are concerned that, as a charity, we shouldn’t stray into political territory by explicitly responding to Black Lives Matter,” Majumdar wrote.
“I have listened, and I appreciate these concerns, but I want to make it clear that we are not supporting any particular political party or organization,” wrote Majumdar. “This is our response to a long-overdue global movement. Seismic events have fundamentally changed our world. This is a genuine cultural shift, not a blip. As a charity, the changes we are undertaking are crucial to safeguard our future and remain relevant.”
The review meetings have concluded and the findings are being reviewed by an independent academic at the University of Glasgow. These will be compiled into a report and a series of recommendations that will be discussed by the BAFTA board next week, ahead of publication later this month.
“We see this review as being only the start of changes we plan to make over the next few years, and not an end point,” Majumdar wrote.
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