Home Movie AwardsThe Oscars ‘Oscar Diversity’ Task Force Institutes Best Picture Quota Requirements: Pointed or Pointless Step?

‘Oscar Diversity’ Task Force Institutes Best Picture Quota Requirements: Pointed or Pointless Step?

Oscar diversity: Women – including two lesbianish characters – form the core of the 1950 Best Picture winner All About Eve. But would the Broadway-focused classic have met the new “Oscar Diversity” quotas? (Pictured: George Sanders, Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis, Anne Baxter in All About Eve).
  • The Academy’s “Oscar Diversity” task force has come up with a “representation and inclusion” system – on-screen and behind-the-scenes quotas for various groups – that will determine eligibility in the Best Picture category.
  • The implementation and effectiveness of the “Oscar Diversity” quota system remains – at best – fuzzy.

Academy’s ‘Oscar Diversity’ task force mandates ‘representation & inclusion’ quotas for Best Picture eligibility

As part of its Academy Aperture 2025 – a.k.a. “Oscar Diversity” – initiative, on Sept. 8 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced “new representation and inclusion standards” for Oscar eligibility in one specific category: Best Picture. (See further below the full list of new Oscar Diversity standards.)

According to the Academy’s press release, the new rules – implicitly geared to U.S.-made productions – “are designed to encourage equitable representation on and off screen in order to better reflect the diversity of the movie-going audience.”

Two Academy governors – Paramount CEO Jim Gianopulos and producer DeVon Franklin (of the Christian movies Heaven Is for Real and Breakthrough) – headed the task force that, in consultation with the Producers Guild of America, developed the Oscar diversity requirements.

These are based on the British Film Institute’s Diversity Standards, comprised of various eligibility requisites for funding and for the BAFTAs’ Best British Film and Outstanding (British) Debut categories.

2024 ‘inclusion’

The Best Picture “representation and inclusion” requirements will go into effect at the 96th Academy Awards (2024 ceremony).

From then on, in order to qualify for the Oscars’ top category, potential contenders will need to meet at least two out of four broad “standards” – themselves divided into more specific demands.

In the meantime, those submitting movies for Best Picture consideration at the 94th and 95th Academy Awards (2022 and 2023) will have to file a confidential Academy Inclusion Standards form.

‘Diverse global population’

Also in the Oscar Diversity press release, Academy President David Rubin and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson are quoted as jointly affirming that “the aperture must widen to reflect our diverse global population in both the creation of motion pictures and in the audiences who connect with them.”

Additionally, on its Aperture 2025 page the Academy avers that it is “committed to building an anti-racist, inclusive organization that will contextualize and challenge dominant narratives around cinema, and build authentic relationships with diverse communities.”

But how “authentic” are these relationships and how “diverse” are these communities supposed to be?

How authentic is ‘authentic’? How diverse is ‘diverse’?

Perhaps not all that authentic. Or that diverse.

For instance, there are no standards requiring the hiring of “international” cast members, behind-the-scenes personnel, or interns/apprentices in an industry that wouldn’t exist – at least not in its current multi-billion-dollar grandiosity – without all those Canadian, Mexican, South American, European, Asian, Australian/New Zealand, and, even if to a much lesser extent, African butts warming up cinema house seats showing American movies.

After all, hiring, making movies about, and/or offering internships to underrepresented Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, and African Americans ain’t the same as hiring, making movies about, and/or offering internships to underrepresented Mexicans, Asians, and Africans.

Or, for that matter, hiring, making movies about, and/or offering internships to underrepresented Argentineans, Germans, Turks, and New Zealanders.

Are ethnic labels enough?

Barry Jenkins’ acclaimed 2016 Best Picture winner Moonlight has been hailed as an exemplar of the craved-for Oscar Diversity. But how is the Miami-set drama reflective of “black lives” elsewhere on the planet?

Is it really enough for movie-goers/-watchers in Johannesburg, Nigeria, and Bahia to merely see someone on screen or at the Oscars who “looks like them”?

Their coin is welcome. But not their stories?

In the case of Hollywood movies set in “exotic” parts of the world – e.g., Black Panther, Aladdin – how is it admissible for American and British actors (Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Will Smith, Naomi Scott, etc.) to play most of the lead characters?

If one is going to take the tribal route, why is skin color of supreme importance but not national affiliation?

(Niki Caro’s Mulan is an exception that, ironically, debuted to disappointing box office figures in China.)

Hollywood Diversity: Aladdin with American Will Smith in blueface as the Arabian Genie. In terms of Oscar Diversity, maybe it’s a good sign that Guy Ritchie’s blockbuster failed to be shortlisted for a single Academy Award the same year that Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite made Oscar history.

Oscar diversity not so globally diverse in acting categories

In the last five years, out of 100 nomination slots in the Academy Awards’ four acting categories, a not insignificant 41 have gone to “foreigners.”

Impressive?

Not so much once one realizes that included in these 41 nods are New York City-born Irishwoman Saoirse Ronan (3 times), Honolulu-born Australian Nicole Kidman, Los Angeles-born Englishman Andrew Garfield, and Jerusalem-born (to an American mother) and U.S.-raised Natalie Portman.

Or that 22 of these 41 slots went to British performers.

And that a mere six went to performers – Isabelle Huppert, Alicia Vikander, Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Antonio Banderas, Charlize Theron – who grew up speaking a language other than English.

And that a paltry four went to non-English-language performances: Huppert for Elle, Aparicio and de Tavira for Roma, Banderas for Pain and Glory.

And that’s progress. Which, in all fairness, has been undeniable.

Indisputable Oscar Diversity progress

For some time, the Academy has been making a genuine effort to add new members from just about every corner of the globe. This infusion of international talent is possibly beginning to show results in a handful of categories.

In the last decade, two Best Picture winners were productions from non-English-speaking countries: Michel Hazanavicius’ French/Belgian, Hollywood-set silent The Artist, and Bong Joon-ho’s South Korean Parasite, the first ever non-English-language Best Picture.

Also since 2010, no less than 9 out of 10 Best Director winners were born outside the United States, with Damien Chazelle of La La Land as the homegrown exception.

For comparison’s sake: In the 1990s, only two Best Director winners were “foreigners,” both from the U.K.: Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) and Sam Mendes (American Beauty).

#OscarsSoNativist

Even so, the current Oscar Diversity status quo remains a long way from accurately reflecting “our diverse global population.”

For instance, when it comes to non-English-language productions, things haven’t changed all that much: Three out of 50 Best Director nomination slots in the 1990s; four (including The Artist) in the 2010s.

Out of 100 slots in the Best Adapted Screenplay category in the last decade, exactly zero went to non-English-language releases.

Also since 2010, out of 100 Best Original Screenplay slots, a mere three went to non-English-language films: Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation, Michael Haneke’s Amour, and Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma.

Four if one includes the silent The Artist. Five if one includes the mostly English-language The Lobster, written by Greeks Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou.

The only reason English-language social media users haven’t thought of the hashtag #OscarsSoNativist is because they, no matter their skin color, are no less hypocritically ethnocentric than Academy members.

Several underrepresented groups to remain underrepresented

Based on the Academy’s new Oscar Diversity standards, other underrepresented groups that will remain underrepresented in American movies are:

  • Most religious followers (and atheists/agnostics).
  • Those in the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder.
  • Especially in front of the camera, those over the age of 60 (with women suffering the most).

No #HollywoodSoAgeist hashtags to put the fear of Methuselah in the Academy’s Board of Governors?

How legitimate are the Oscar Diversity labels?

Lastly, does blonde, blue-eyed Cameron Diaz count as an Oscar Diversity-friendly “Hispanic/Latina” because of her last name?

Would the casting of snow-white, blue-eyed, Paris-born Isabelle Adjani count as that of a “Middle Easterner/North African” because her father was Algerian?

Natalie Portman is Israeli-American. Does she count as one of those underrepresented “Middle Easterners”?

Are Spaniards Penélope Cruz and Antonio Banderas ethnic minorities?

Is French actress Virginie Ledoyen, partly of Spanish descent, “Hispanic/Latina”? Or must one have been born in Ohio, Arizona, or Panama to have that label attached to them?

Is Mexico City-born cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, at least partly a descendant of Russian/Lithuanian Jewish immigrants, an ethnic minority? If so, how is he any more of an ethnic minority than Minneapolis-born filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen, also of Jewish Eastern European descent?

LGBT ‘representation and inclusion’

It gets more complicated. And a tad more perilous.

How exactly will the Academy’s Oscar Diversity enforcers verify, to name one tricky underrepresented group, LGBT hiring?

Will producers/studios start inquiring about people’s sexual orientation? What if prospective employees aren’t “out”?

Or will LGBT people, as usual, be relegated to the sidelines while producers/studios focus on hiring/showcasing more “diversity”-friendly underrepresented groups?

And what about LGBT characters?

Will the Oscar Diversity seal of approval be contingent on their sexual orientation being made explicit? Or would someone like Anne Baxter’s Eve Harrington or Barbara Bates’ Phoebe – in Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s 1950 Best Picture winner All About Eve – suffice?

Most importantly, will the new Oscar Diversity rules lead to the first ever gay Marvel/DC superhero blockbuster? Or at the very least to more non-heterosexual lead characters in mainstream American movies?

Don’t hold your breath.

Oscar Diversity 1962 style: David Lean’s Best Picture winner Lawrence of Arabia with (English-born) Scottish-Irish Peter O’Toole as (Welsh-born) Anglo-Irish T.E. Lawrence, and Irish-Mexican Anthony Quinn, sporting a fake nose, as Bedouin Arab leader Auda abu Tayi.

Do-nothing Oscar Diversity standards?

On social media, Hollywood players Kirstie Alley and James Woods have vented their outrage at the new Oscar Diversity standards. That’s a clever thing to do if all you want is to keep your right-wing brand in evidence.

For despite the Academy’s goals, Hollywood stories/practices will likely remain unaffected by the new Oscar Diversity standards.

If Cameron Diaz or Penélope Cruz can’t pass the “Hispanic/Latina” test, surely American production companies can hire a (white) trainee from Wyoming whose great-grandmother hailed from Cuba. Or the Punjab. Or the Cherokee Nation.

Quota box checked.

Anyhow, whatever you think of those standards – a step in the right direction, a step in the wrong direction, a step in the direction of PR damage control, no step at all – below is the Academy’s list of quota demands and their attached labels.

Best Picture ‘Oscar Diversity’ requirements

STANDARD A: ON-SCREEN REPRESENTATION, THEMES AND NARRATIVES

To achieve Standard A, the film must meet ONE of the following criteria:

A1. Lead/significant supporting actors

At least 1 of the lead actors or significant supporting actors is from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group.

• Asian
• Hispanic/Latinx
• Black/African American
• Indigenous/Native American/Alaskan Native
• Middle Eastern/North African
• Native Hawaiian/other Pacific Islander
• Other underrepresented race/ethnicity

A2. General ensemble cast

At least 30% of all actors in secondary & more minor roles are from at least 2 of the following underrepresented groups:

• Women
• Racial/ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive/physical disabilities, or who are deaf/hard of hearing

A3. Main storyline/subject matter

The main storyline(s), theme or narrative of the film is centered on an underrepresented group(s).

• Women
• Racial/ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive/physical disabilities, or who are deaf/hard of hearing

STANDARD B: CREATIVE LEADERSHIP & PROJECT TEAM

To achieve Standard B, the film must meet ONE of the criteria below:

B1. Creative leadership & department heads

At least two of the following creative leadership positions and department heads – Casting Director, Cinematographer, Composer, Costume Designer, Director, Editor, Hairstylist, Makeup Artist, Producer, Production Designer, Set Decorator, Sound, VFX Supervisor, Writer – are from the following underrepresented groups:

• Women
• Racial/ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive/physical disabilities, or who are deaf/hard of hearing

At least one of those positions must belong to the following underrepresented racial/ethnic group:

• Asian
• Hispanic/Latinx
• Black/African American
• Indigenous/Native American/Alaskan Native
• Middle Eastern/North African
• Native Hawaiian/other Pacific Islander
• Other underrepresented race/ethnicity

B2. Other key roles

At least six other crew/team and technical positions (excluding Production Assistants) are from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group. These positions include but are not limited to First AD, Gaffer, Script Supervisor, etc.

B3. Overall crew composition

At least 30% of the film’s crew is from the following underrepresented groups:

• Women
• Racial/ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive/physical disabilities, or who are deaf/hard of hearing

STANDARD C: INDUSTRY ACCESS & OPPORTUNITIES

To achieve Standard C, the film must meet BOTH criteria below:

C1. Paid apprenticeship & internship opportunities

The film’s distribution or financing company has paid apprenticeships or internships that are from the following underrepresented groups and satisfy the criteria below:

• Women
• Racial/ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive/physical disabilities, or who are deaf/hard of hearing

The major studios/distributors are required to have substantive, ongoing paid apprenticeships/internships inclusive of underrepresented groups (must also include racial/ethnic groups) in most of the following departments: production/development, physical production, post-production, music, VFX, acquisitions, business affairs, distribution, marketing and publicity.

The mini-major or independent studios/distributors must have a minimum of two apprentices/interns from the above underrepresented groups (at least one from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group) in at least one of the following departments: production/development, physical production, post-production, music, VFX, acquisitions, business affairs, distribution, marketing and publicity.

C2. Training opportunities & skills development (crew)

The film’s production, distribution and/or financing company offers training and/or work opportunities for below-the-line skill development to people from the following underrepresented groups:

• Women
• Racial/ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive/physical disabilities, or who are deaf/hard of hearing

STANDARD D: AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT

To achieve Standard D, the film must meet the criterion below:

D1. Representation in marketing, publicity, and distribution

The studio and/or film company has multiple in-house senior executives from among the following underrepresented groups (must include individuals from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups) on their marketing, publicity, and/or distribution teams.

• Women
• Racial/ethnic group:

  • Asian
  • Hispanic/Latinx
  • Black/African American
  • Indigenous/Native American/Alaskan Native
  • Middle Eastern/North African
  • Native Hawaiian/other Pacific Islander
  • Other underrepresented race/ethnicity

• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive/physical disabilities, or who are deaf/hard of hearing


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Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Marilyn Monroe All About Eve image: 20th Century Fox.

Will Smith Aladdin image: Walt Disney Pictures.

Peter O’Toole, Anthony Quinn Lawrence of Arabia image: Columbia Pictures.

“’Oscar Diversity’ Task Force Institutes Best Picture Quota Requirements: Pointed or Pointless Step?” last updated in September 2020.

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