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Baftas 2017

Bafta race row: awards slammed for scarcity of BAME nominations

Diversity debate rages as non-white actors and directors miss out while Bafta CEO points to stiff competition in strong year and defends British focus

Great divide … Denzel Washington and Viola Davis in Fences. Davis was nominated for best supporting actress but Washington missed out. Photograph: David Lee/AP This article is 1 month old

Andrew Pulver

@Andrew_Pulver

Wednesday 11 January 2017 16.50 GMT Last modified on Wednesday 11 January 2017 18.00 GMT

The Bafta film awards have been hit with a diversity row after no BAME actors were nominated for the leading-role categories, nor for best director.

The most strident complaints came from the US, with Hollywood Reporter columnist Scott Feinberg labelling the omissions – particularly that of Fences actor-director Denzel Washington and Moonlight director Barry Jenkins – “egregious” and writing that the situation “stinks worse than week-old fish and chips”.

The issue was thrown into sharp relief by the fact that the Bafta nominations arrived the day after the Golden Globes, where Moonlight won best film (drama) and Jenkins, Washington and interracial romance Loving star Ruth Negga were all nominated in major categories. However, Moonlight’s Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris, and Fences’ Viola Davis were nominated in Bafta’s supporting actor slots, as well as Lion’s Dev Patel.

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In February 2016 demonstrators protested outside the Bafta awards ceremony at the Royal Opera House, using the hashtag #BaftaBlackout. Feinberg added: “Bafta … already were exploring better ways to handle diversity when last I checked in with them in April. Clearly, they haven’t cracked that nut yet.”

Feinberg is referring to a number of changes that Bafta announced to increase the diversity of both its awards and membership, including a requirement that films must comply with the BFI’s diversity standards to be eligible for its two main British-only awards, and an increase in the number of women and ethnic minority members.

Bafta CEO Amanda Berry responded by pointing out that Moonlight had still received four nods, including best original screenplay for Jenkins, and best film. “I do not feel Barry has been snubbed by Bafta,” Berry told Deadline.

Deadline also quotes an anonymous Bafta member’s opinion that Fences’ and Moonlight’s late position in the release schedule (release dates on 10 and 17 February respectively) could have played a part. “This year, the slate felt so full from the high-standard of product from Venice and Toronto that it seems like anything that came late to the table almost didn’t stand a chance … People seemed to have made their minds up from earlier on this year.”

Berry also suggested that Bafta has its own priorities that don’t always coincide with the American film world’s, citing the impressive showing from Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake, which scored five nominations. “As a British academy, we love it when Brits do well,” she said. “Certain films like I, Daniel Blake are likely to do a lot better in the UK than in the US because it’s a very British film with British sensibilities.”

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