Hollywood also needs diversity behind the camera | Entertainment

It’s awards season, that time of year when motion pictures are celebrated in all their forms. The world’s most famous actors, directors, writers, producers, cinematographers, musicians, editors, costume designers, animators and other creators are all celebrated glorified with shiny figurines, critical acclaim, and most importantly, cultural and professional currency.

In recent years, the season has also led to increased scrutiny of the underrepresentation of women and minorities in the film and television industries. Last year, the Golden Globe was interrupted amid criticism of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association — the organization that awards those awards — for poor diversity.

However, for all the talk and hashtags, reality remains grim. Michelle Yeoh is the only non-white actor in the best actress category at the Oscars, and the Oscars are controversial for omitting Viola Davis in The Woman King and Danielle Deadwyler in Till. The best actor category includes only white men and the best director category does not include any Black women or filmmakers.

In fact, things are getting worse. While there is at least considerable media attention on the need to increase on-screen representation, the numbers tell an even more unfortunate story when it comes to off-screen diversity.

A recent study by USC Annenberg, which looked at the gender, race, and ethnicity of the directors behind the 100 highest-grossing films of 2022, found that only 9% were women, down from 12, 7% in 2021. Only 20.7% of directors are Black, Asian, Hispanic, Latino or multiracial directors, down from 27.3 percent in 2021. One study other from San Diego State University (pdf) came to the same conclusion.

Of course, many feature films and TV series and OTTs have cast non-white characters in lead roles in recent years. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — which awards the Oscars — has set standards for diversity and inclusion in 2020. Under those rules, creators from ethnic communities and Diverse minorities must be hired in lead roles for the films to have a chance to win Best Picture from the 2024-25 season.

Indeed, one could say that even up until a few years ago, a movie like Everything Everywhere All At Once — this year’s (and mine) award-season favorite — would never have been. perform. The best performance of Michelle Yeoh’s career, she plays a Chinese-American immigrant who must connect with every version of herself in the multiverse to save it. Stephanie Hsu, also nominated, is an exploration, and to put it simply, an unforgettable cinematic journey.

Ke Huy Quan, who plays Duong Tu Quynh’s husband in the film, has repeatedly said that he hasn’t acted in nearly 20 years because no one wants to hire actors like him. The popular movie Warrior, based on the writings of Bruce Lee, may have been closed for a while before that; the Mo is happy and strong, telling the story of a Palestinian refugee seeking American citizenship would be unthinkable; And Naatu NaatuOscar-nominated Indian song, won’t make waves outside the country.

Too often, however, studios still hire box-checkers, without treating women and minorities on an equal footing with white male artists. John Boyega talked about casting his Star Wars cast as a public performance rather than a heartfelt Disney mash-up. Adele Lim, who co-wrote the super hit Crazy Rich Asians, declined to write a sequel when she learned that Warner Bros. had offered her one-tenth of a white male writer’s salary, about $1 million.

Because here’s the truth: Representative gives birth to representative, as proven over and over again – a woman is more likely to hire other women for important jobs; ditto for people of color or minorities. When diversity is shrinking behind the camera, it is naive to expect the representation of women and minorities to significantly improve in front of the camera.

The lack of diversity behind the scenes in Western film and television studios also manifests in their visual depiction of developing, non-Western nations.

Although much is said about the treatment of Easterners towards non-Westerners and their cultures (Arabs, Asians, Africans, Native Americans) in cinema and television, but it is equally important to show how their cities and countries are portrayed on screen. There are orange/yellow tones typical for Latin America, the Middle East, Africa or South Asia, making the audience immediately associate violence, fear and uncivilized people.

Remember the Netflix movie Extraction starring Chris Hemsworth? It shows Bangladesh as like a war zone, with kids running around with AK-47s and non-Bangladeshi actors speaking in harsh accents amid the filth and chaos. All of Breaking Bad’s Mexican scenes were shot with this filter — also known as the “shithole filter.”

There are also shocking things lack of research and accuracy about developing countries even in popular programs. In 2015, several artists hired to paint Arabic graffiti to depict refugee camps for the Emmy-winning show Homeland surreptitiously included the phrase “Homeland is racist” and didn’t even mention it. who on set noticed that. This remains one of the fiercest protests against Hollywood’s persistent depiction of the Arab world.

In America’s ongoing Seal Team program, buildings in Karachi have fire exits, the Indian military has helicopters with sadly inaccurate call signals, and the Middle East is just a desert. desert. This, in a show that prides itself on faithfully depicting Seal’s activities. Black Adam, the film, depicts several versions of Cairo that don’t look like it or don’t look like it.

These examples, and many others like them, point to the absence of a diverse team of writers, directors, cinematographers, and other groups who can bring authenticity to the audience. the world they are trying to represent.

In contrast, Marvel screened Knights of the Moon, directed by Egyptian filmmaker Mohamed Diab, and episodes based on Karachi. Miss Marvel by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, a two-time Oscar winner, has been praised for addressing a general lack of authenticity in the industry.

Diab, who praised Wonder Woman 1984 for making Egypt look like a country from the Middle Ages, introduced Cairo, his city, with great depth and detail — it was one of those. the reason why Moon Knight is so successful. On the other hand, Obaid-Chinoy worked closely with Ms Marvel’s production designer to recreate Karachi in Bangkok, while also drawing inspiration from the house she grew up in to design Mrs. Marvel’s house in Karachi. .

In a world where everyone sees everything, Hollywood can no longer excuse misogyny, racism, and a transparent approach to the globalized entertainment industry. And real change will only come when the industry embraces diversity on its own. It can’t be an action.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of Al Jazeera.


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