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The Academy’s Push for Foreign Voice in the Oscars May Continue to Overlook American Minority Filmmakers

A push towards diversity should begin with the films overlooked in our own country.
By  · Published on December 29th, 2017

A push towards diversity should begin with the films overlooked in our own country.

As the 8 day nomination voting period beginning on January 5th quickly approaches, many websites have tried to predict how the Academy will sway. Most critics agree that festival favorites like Lady Bird and Call Me By Your Name will be granted nominations. However, Deadline predicts a foreign influence may be the biggest factor in how the Academy votes this year, resulting in an incredibly diverse number of films outside of just the Best Foreign Film category. This is a good step toward expanding the awards to reflect a greater array of nominees, but it may be overlooking diversity inside our own country in the process.

Since Sidney Ganis was elected president of the Academy in 2005, the involvement of foreign filmmakers has become ever more prominent within the organization. His cultural globalist background comes in handy when growing the Academy to include a global voice. He has pushed for more foreign members since his arrival as president, and the membership has increased to 8,500 members. They seem to be concerned about continuing this progression, as Deadline reported that the public relations department of the Academy sent out a memo stating: “It is important to increase the number of executives who are outside the United States.” This push for foreign voices within the organization will certainly reflect in the films they choose to nominate in the next month.

This is good news for those who consider the Oscars to be limited to very traditionally celebrated films. The “Oscars So White” debacle was the result of the Academy overlooking many wonderful performances and films because they nominated mostly white centered films. A push for a global voice would help show the diverse nature of American cinema. Hollywood is made of many people who pilgrim to the city from all over the world to make films, bringing their culture and global voice with them. If the Oscars could reflect that as well, it would greater represent America’s melting pot reputation as well.

That being said, the Academy will have to be careful how much foreign influence they will bring into the Oscars this year. If they are looking too much out of the country for diversity, they will miss many films made in our own country by just as diverse individuals. People of color and other minorities have been overlooked by the Academy just as much as foreign filmmakers. That is more important to address than foreign influence since those filmmakers will not only have to compete with their white peers from America but also the filmmakers that are predicted to have a better chance in the nominations this year. After all, black filmmakers especially have voiced serious disappointment in the Academy choices for nominees in the past few years and their voices should be considered before looking outside the country. Television awards have long been ahead of the Academy when it comes to rewarding the minority filmmakers for their hard work in Hollywood and its time for film awards to reflect the same demographic.

As much as America is influenced by other countries when it comes to cinema, they also set the example for much of the world when it comes to cinema. Hollywood has a greater influence on other countries than they do in Hollywood. If Hollywood and the Academy set the example of highlighting the diverse minorities within its own country, maybe those stories will come to be more valued in other countries than they are currently.

Last year Moonlight dazzled the Oscars not just because of the Best Film announcement episode, but because of what it represented for the diversity of the Academy’s consideration. This year Get Out, Mudbound, Detroit, and Marshall have a chance to represent the African-American voice at the Oscars. If the Academy is concerned about showing the more global films, Call Me By Your Name features three languages and is set in Italy. Mexico native Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water certainly contains his foreign voice that would add to the diversity of the nominations. Dunkirk features a famous WWII British tale, going outside just the American look at a war that is often explored by Hollywood.

Whatever the Academy chooses to highlight this coming year, we should continue to support minority and foreign filmmakers even if they don’t get the attention they deserve by the prestigious Oscars. As we draw more importance to the kinds of films they have overlooked in the past, maybe they will take that into consideration as they vote in the coming years. The 2018 Oscar nominations will be announced January 23rd.

Emily Kubincanek is a Senior Contributor for Film School Rejects and resident classic Hollywood fan. When she's not writing about old films, she works as a librarian and film archivist. You can find her tweeting about Cary Grant and hockey here: @emilykub_