Actor Joaquin Phoenix, who played the popular role Joker, accepted his Best Actor award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts on Sunday night.
What We Know:
- He spoke for a minute to a dead-silent audience that included fellow nominees Adam Driver and Saoirse Ronan before listeners erupted in cheers and applause.
- Phoenix began by saying, “The BAFTAs have already been very supportive of my career and I’m deeply appreciative but I have to say I also feel conflicted because so many of my fellow actors that are deserving don’t have that same privilege, I think that we send a very clear message to people of color that you’re not welcome here.”
- Phoenix also said the problem was more than simply pushing for “multicultural” sets. He added, “I think that we have to really do the hard work to truly understand systemic racism.”
- Phoenix said it wasn’t a “self-righteous” criticism. “I’m ashamed to say that I am part of the problem because I have not done everything in my power to ensure that the sets, I work on are inclusive.”
- It’s the “obligation of the people that have created and perpetuate and benefit from a system of oppression to be the ones that dismantle it, so that’s on us,” he concluded.
- The lack of diversity in the film awards in Britain and across the pond is a perennial issue.
- Emma Baehr, BAFTAs Director of Awards, told The Hollywood Reporter that while the academy would “have liked to have seen more diversity in the nominations, it does continue to be an industry-wide issue.”
- The chair of BAFTAs film committee Marc Samuelson said early last month this year’s lineup of acting awards nominees represented an “infuriating lack of diversity”.
- Cynthia Erivo, the lone actor of color nominated for the Oscars this year for her leading role as abolitionist Harriet Tubman in the film Harriet, refused a request to sing at the BAFTA ceremony because of the lack of diversity.
The issue is bound to come up again on Sunday at the Oscars, which Joaquin and Cynthia are favorites to win.