Oscars So White: Diversity and Representation in Film

January 29, 2016 | Soheli

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The 88th Annual Academy Awards are set to premiere on February 28, 2016. While the usual buzz around the Oscars has already started - best dressed, anyone? - a more bothersome controversy has also popped up. 

The nominations for this year's Awards brought with them much criticism as many pointed out the lack of diversity. There are a few limited exceptions (for example, Straight Outta Compton is a contender for Best Original Screenplay), but other than that, the nominee list is noticeably lacking in colour.

Aziz Ansari - White Roles
Comedian Aziz Ansari jokes about race and film/TV roles

In the four major acting categories - Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress - all nominees are white. This is despite some arguably stellar performances by actors of colour: Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nationthe majority of the cast of Straight Outta Compton, and Michael B. Jordan in Creed. The trend continues into the other big-ticket categories like Best Picture as well.

Beasts-of-no-nationBeasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala

Straight Outta Compton

Straight Outta Compton -- check your local branch for DVD availability.

Creed SoundtrackCreed - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. Borrow it now from Hoopla Digital!

This isn't the first time the Academy has come under fire for the lack of representation. In fact, this is the second year in a row where diversity has been an issue in the top awards. Not surprisingly, this kind of controversy stirs up strong emotions in people, including the actors and celebrities in the midst of the Oscar buzz. Some have decided to make upfront remarks, with actors Will Smith and wife Jada Pinkett Smith deciding not to attend the Oscars this year at all, and George Clooney pointing out deeper issues of casting opportunities for black actors and other actors of colour.

February is also Black History Month, and is as good a time as any to consider some of the deeper issues surrounding diversity - even beyond film or art. Author Shakil Choudhury digs into the 'us vs. them' mentality in his book, Deep Diversity.

Deep Diversity Choudhury


Interested in other books and films about diversity and representation?

Dear White People, 2015
A sharp and funny comedy about a group of black students as they navigate campus life and racial boundaries at a predominately white college.
A sly, provocative satire about being a black face in a white place.

Screens Fade to Black, 2006
The triple crown of Oscars awarded to Denzel Washington, Halle Berry, and Sidney Poitier in 2002 seemed to mark a turning point for African Americans in cinema. But did it really mark the beginning of true change?

Black Hollywood, 2008
A feature documentary that explores the role of black actors, black directors and the black audience in American movies.

Heroes, Lovers, and Others, 2004
The fascinating history of Latinos in film, from the birth of the movies to the present, through a series of stories about Hollywood's most famous and enduring stars. The sparkling parade of Latino film stars presented against the backdrop of American social and cultural history changes the way we think of race and ethnicity in Hollywood.

Dreaming in Canadian, 2010
Second-generation immigrants are exploring new ways to make sense of who they are and where they belong in the face of competing cultural demands. Dreaming in Canadian turns the spotlight on the role of Bollywood cinema in the production of cultural, religious, and national identities among South Asian youth in Toronto, Vancouver, and Ottawa.

The Slanted Screen, 2006
A film that explores the portrayals of Asian men in American cinema, chronicling the experiences of actors who have had to struggle against ethnic stereotyping and limiting roles.