The 2017 Oscar nominations, announced Jan. 24 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, are a big disappointment to the Multi-Ethnic Media Coalition.
This year’s nominations recognize some outstanding performances by people of color, particularly by African American actors and actresses, but four out of five of the nominees in the Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Director categories are white, and Latinos, Asian Americans and Native Americans were once again noticeably underrepresented or not represented at all, the coalition said.
“Creatives of color in Hollywood are producing outstanding work that fosters a greater understanding of today’s diverse America and we applaud all of the nominees announced by the Academy today,” said Alex Nogales, president and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition — the secretariat of the National Latino Media Council. “Without question, the multi-dimensional portrayals of our community are what audiences want and film studios fell short again this past year in meeting that need with greater opportunity for talent of all races and ethnicities.
“Latinos are outraged, our actors are not getting the opportunities to work in front of camera, and with few exceptions, in back of camera as well.”
Throughout 2016, the Multi-Ethnic Media Coalition, including the National Latino Media Council, Asian Pacific American Media Coalition (APAMC), American Indians in Film and Television (AIFT) and NAACP Hollywood Bureau, sought commitments from the top six film studios — Walt Disney, 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Universal, Warner Bros., and Sony Pictures — to include the disclosure of diversity data and explore strategies for increasing those numbers.
To date, no major film studio has agreed to regularly provide data on their released films regarding diversity in executive leadership, casting, writing, producing and directing, and no head of studio has engaged in conversations with the coalition about urgently needed improvements.
Nogales continued, “Despite being 18 percent of the population and the biggest movie-goers in the country, only four Latinos were nominated in back-of-camera categories for the 2017 Academy Awards. The lack of recognition for Latino talent in front of camera on the Oscar stage stems from film studios not providing opportunities for that talent at every level. They must stop ignoring our calls for action and put diversity and inclusion for all races and ethnicities at the top of their list of priorities.”
“Again, our African American brothers and sisters are included in nominations but other people of color are excluded, especially when it comes to American Indians,” said Sonny Skyhawk, founder of AIFT.
“We congratulate Dev Patel (‘Lion’) for his richly-deserved Best Supporting Actor nomination and wish him luck in the final voting,” said Daniel Mayeda, chair of APAMC. “We are disappointed that the Academy overlooked other outstanding performances by Asian/Asian American actors, including Hayden Szeto (‘Edge of Seventeen’) and Donnie Yen (‘Rogue One’).
“In addition, ‘Kubo and the Two Strings,’ nominated for Best Animated Feature, is demonstrative of the continual problem Asian/Asian Americans face in Hollywood: Even when the story centers on our experiences, the roles are often played by non-Asian/Asian American actors. Kubo and his entire extended Japanese family were all voiced by white actors, Marvel cast The Ancient One as a white woman (Tilda Swinton) in ‘Dr. Strange,’ and Scarlett Johansson will play Major Motoko Kusanagi in the upcoming ‘Ghost in the Shell.’
“Nominations and box-office receipts for films such as ‘Moana’ (Best Animated Feature) and ‘Hidden Figures’ (numerous nominations including Best Picture) demonstrate that movies with storylines featuring people of color can be commercial successes, both with those ethnic communities and the broader general audience. We therefore urge the studios to reach out to Asian American creative talent and tell more stories from our community.”