British stars unveil alternative Bafta list in film diversity row

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A group of leading British stars and film directors, including Gemma Arterton, Carey Mulligan and Joely Richardson, are to speak out this week from the lack of diversity in the films and talent to be celebrated during the entertainment industry’s annual awards season.

“While there are a few great films and outstanding performances nominated, there have been glaring omissions, ” said Dame Heather Rabbatts, chair of the Time’s Up UK campaign.

Each star has been asked to donate to an alternative set of Bafta nominees to be unveiledon Monday.

“I would give a Bafta nomination to Lorene Scafaria for writing and directing Hustlers said Mulligan, while Arterton has voted for the Olivia Wilde film Booksmart. “I can’t believe it didn’t get any nods, particularly for the acting and first-time director, ” she said. “Same is true of The Nightingale and Portrait of a girl on Fire. ”

Other supporters have spoken out for director Greta Gerwig’s hit Little Women, nominated for a best film Oscar, and for Joanna Hogg’s admired British film The Souvenir.

Best actress and actor votes went to Cynthia Erivo, who plays abolitionist Harriet Tubman in Kasi Lemmon’s Harriet and who’s nominated for an Oscar, and to Daniel Kaluuya for Queen and Slim. Richardson kept it in the household by choosing to nominate her own mother’s performance opposite Timothy Spall in Mrs Lowry & Son.

Rabbatts said that the campaign intends to make sure that the awards do not pass without “raising the profile of those whose endeavours and performances never have made it to the nominations”.

“This isn’t about removing from the talent that is nominated, ” she said. “We congratulate all of those nominated and everyone knows the work and total commitment to do this accolade. But alongside them there are others who should be looking at that carpet. ”

She said she hoped other actors and directors would “join around in celebrating the rich and diverse roster of talent before us. This ‘invisibility’ is even more shocking given your choices which were available and the potency of films and performances where black talent was apparent this year. ”

The hotly tipped films dominating the British Academy of Film and Television Arts and the Oscars ceremonies this winter, occurring in London next Sunday and in Los Angeles on 9 February respectively, are largely worried about male lives, and directed by men, from Todd Phillips’ blockbuster film The Joker, to Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, James Mangold’s Ford vs Ferrari and Sam Mendes’ British first world war hit 1917.

Earlier this month the Oscar-winning director Steve McQueen was among those to greet the Bafta nominations with dismay. He said that the big event now risked becoming irrelevant, unless it underwent radical reform.

The black director, who has won two Baftas – one for his debut feature film Hunger last year and another for best film in 2014 for 12 Years a Slave – said that the British film awards had failed to recognise diverse talent. Speaking to the Observer this weekend, Mendes said he agrees that there has been an apparent reversal in recent welcome moves towards an even more inclusive film industry.

“I sat there at the Oscars in 2002 and watched Denzel Washington and Halle Berry win their awards, and Denzel paid his respects to Sidney Poitier, who had been receiving a lifetime achievement award, ” said Mendes. “It felt such as an extraordinarily positive moment. And since then it has gone backwards. And all of us have to be super-vigilant now about not letting that happen. ”

Mendes suggested in his defence that not merely was his a film about a male-dominated conflict, however it was also hard for individual filmmakers to begin to see the broader picture each year. “My story, needless to say, was mainly about men this time, but behind the scenes we made sure we met every diversity criteria. And even on-screen were extremely conscious of reflecting the faces of everyone of different backgrounds who have been involved in the conflict, even if they’d not have all been fighting side by side. It didn’t matter to me in the storytelling, but it did matter that individuals were making the maximum effort to reflect diversity, even if it was not historically accurate. ”

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