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Oscar academy explains new diversity rules for best picture contenders

Los Angeles

IN JUNE, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which oversees the Oscars, said it would add a diversity component to the Oscar race.

On Tuesday, it explained how it's going to work. Beginning in 2024 with the 96th Oscars, films hoping to qualify for the best picture category will have to meet inclusion standards both on camera and behind the scenes.

To meet the on-screen representation standard, at least one of the lead actors or a significant supporting actor must be from an under-represented racial or ethnic group, whether that means Asian, Hispanic, Black, Indigenous, Native American, Middle Eastern, North African, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander.

There are alternatives: Thirty per cent of all actors in secondary or more minor roles could come from two of the following categories: women, LGBTQ, an under-represented racial or ethnic group, or those with cognitive or physical disabilities. Or the main storyline must focus on an under-represented group.

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The move is part of a continuing effort to improve inclusion both within the organisation and in the movies it honors. Over the years, the academy has come under fire for presenting all-white acting slates at nomination time, a fault many attribute to both the homogeneous makeup of the organisation and the industry at large. These standards are meant to address the broader industry issues.

"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," the academy's president, David Rubin, and chief executive, Dawn Hudson, said in a statement, adding that the pending standards will "be a catalyst for long-lasting, essential change in our industry".

Beginning in 2022, for the 94th Oscars and again in 2023 for the 95th Oscars, each best picture candidate must first submit a confidential academy inclusion standard form to be considered eligible - a baby step, if you will, to get the industry thinking more about inclusion.

Then in 2024, to qualify, a film must meet two of four standards in areas of on-screen representation, off-screen creative leadership, apprenticeship opportunities for members of under-represented groups and diversity in the ranks of the marketing and distribution departments.

The standards will be enforced via spot checks of sets and through dialogue between the academy and a movie's filmmakers and distributors. Two academy governors - the producer DeVon Franklin and Paramount Pictures' chairman and chief executive, Jim Gianopulos - headed up the task force to develop the standards. They took their inspiration from the British Film Institute, which in 2019 became the first major awards body to introduce diversity and inclusion criteria as part of its eligibility requirements. NYTIMES

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