Joaquin Phoenix Is No Joke As He Calls Out Film Industry’s Lack Of Diversity (Video)
Actor Joaquin Phoenix delivered a moment of clarity at the British Academy Film Awards on Sunday (February 2) that encouraged the film industry to step up its efforts to become more diverse.
I feel very honored and privileged to be here tonight, and the BAFTAs have always been very supportive of my career, and I’m deeply appreciative,” Phoenix began at the podium. after winning the award for “Best Leading Actor” for 2019’s Joker. “But I have to say that I also feel conflicted because so many of my favorite actors who are deserving don’t have the same privilege.”
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Continuing, Phoenix shared, “I’m ashamed to say that I’m part of the problem, because I’ve not ensured that the sets I’ve worked on are inclusive. The 45-year-old actor, also nominated for “Best Actor” at the upcoming Academy Awards, urged the film industry as a whole to dismantle a “system of oppression” during his acceptance speech.
The all-white acting nominees announced by BAFTA last month provoked uproar, including the hashtag #BAFTAsSoWhite once more trending and some fearing a boycott of this year’s festivities. Phoenix’s criticism of the lack of diversity among the nominated creators and performers this awards season “could no longer be ignored,” according to the producer and social activist behind Amnesty International.
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“I think that we send a very clear message to people of color that you’re not welcome here,” he said, speaking to the outcry that followed the acting nominations line-up. Actress Viola Davis and director Lulu Wang, whose The Farewell was snubbed at the 2020 Golden Globes, were among those who applauded him via Twitter.
“I don’t think anybody wants a handout or preferential treatment,” Phoenix continued. “People just want to be acknowledged and appreciated and respected for their work. We have to do the hard work to truly understand systemic racism. It is the obligation of the people who have created and benefit from the system of oppression to be the ones to dismantle it. So that’s on us.”
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The 2020 Academy Awards, as well as this weekend’s BAFTAs, suffered from the same outing as has been a Hollywood staple for decades now: all-white, all-male nominees. For the Oscars, there were no women who were nominated in the “Best Director” category.
Fellow filmmakers and performers equally applauded Phoenix for using his privilege to chin-check the BAFTAs for its behavior. Honey Boy director Alma Har’el tweeted, “Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is the first time… in a long time… I see a white man use the stage he’s given to say what we all need to hear.” Yvette Nicole Brown, who is known for her role on NBC’s Community, shared a similar sentiment, posting, “Tell the truth then, Joaquin!” followed by a series of handclap emojis. British stand-up comedian Tea Ilyas also wrote, “Thank you Joaquin for articulating how many people feel and aren’t able to express.”
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To close out the night, the Duke of Cambridge, Prince William, who is also the British Academy Film Awards’ president, alluded to the controversy in his closing remark. “In 2020, and not for the first time in the last few years, we find ourselves talking again about the need to do more to ensure diversity in the sector and in the awards process—that simply cannot be right in this day and age.”