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After #OscarsSoWhite, Academy meets goal to diversify membership

It invites 819 to join its voter ranks, of which 45% are women and 36% are racial minorities

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The new voting membership demographics may be a boon for foreign-language Oscar contenders hoping to emulate the success of South Korean hit Parasite, which won this year's Best Picture award.

Los Angeles 

IN 2015, the Oscars handed all 20 of its acting nominations to white actors. The ensuing controversy, coined #OscarsSoWhite by activist April Reign, was a blow to the reputation of Hollywood's biggest awards ceremony - and in 2016, it happened again.

After those back-to-back blunders cast a renewed spotlight on an Oscar-voting membership mostly made up of white men, the academy set inclusion goals to double the number of women and voters of colour in its membership by 2020.

On Tuesday, as it unveiled a new class of 819 artists and executives invited to become members this year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced it had met both goals. The number of active female members has doubled, from 1,446 to 3,179, and the number of active members from underrepresented ethnic and racial communities has tripled, from 554 to 1,787.

"We take great pride in the strides we have made in exceeding our initial inclusion goals set back in 2016, but acknowledge the road ahead is a long one," the academy chief executive, Dawn Hudson, said in a statement. "We are committed to staying the course."

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Some 45 per cent of this year's new members are women, while 36 per cent are racial minorities. The list of actors invited to join includes famous faces like Crazy Rich Asians stars Constance Wu and Awkwafina, as well as Yalitza Aparicio, the Oscar-nominated lead of Roma, and five performers from the winner of this year's Best Picture award, Parasite.

Several recent Oscar winners were added to the membership roll, including Matthew Cherry, who nabbed the animated-short Oscar this year for Hair Love.

The list of new members invited to join the directors branch includes two women who were overlooked by the Oscars last year, Alma Har'el (Honey Boy) and Lulu Wang (The Farewell), in addition to acclaimed indie filmmakers like Ari Aster (Midsommar) and Robert Eggers (The Lighthouse).

Only two of the 29 people invited to join the directors branch, Matthew Vaughn (X-Men: First Class) and Matt Reeves (War for the Planet of the Apes), are considered big-budget studio filmmakers. The rest of the list skews indie and international.

Overall, the 2020 class of new members is 49 per cent international, hailing from 68 countries.

That may be a boon for foreign-language Oscar contenders hoping to emulate the success of Bong Joon Ho's South Korean sensation Parasite, the first film not in the English language to win best picture.

Still, despite all those gains, only 19 per cent of the current members are people of colour, while just 33 per cent of Oscar voters are female.

To that end, the academy has announced a new programme, called Academy Aperture 2025, that will implement new representation and inclusion standards for Oscars eligibility. More details on those guidelines are expected to be released in the next year. NYTIMES

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