EXPLAINED | #BaftasSoWhite Controversy: Why BAFTA is all about white supremacy

EXPLAINED | #BaftasSoWhite Controversy: Why BAFTA is all about white supremacy

EXPLAINED | #BaftasSoWhite Controversy: Why BAFTA is all about white supremacy

As usual no person of colour took home the 2023 BAFTA awards. According to the BBC report, the BAFTA awards ceremony had a diverse set of nominees, with people belonging to ethnic minorities taking almost 40 percent of acting shortlist slots. But that did not translate into wins, with the 49 victors across all categories being white. It comes three years after an outcry and subsequent reforms when all 20 acting nominees were white.

BAFTA definitely is one of the most racist awrds dominated by white supremacy and has no place for coloured craftsmen. Marcus Ryder, director of consultancy at the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity, said Sunday’s results were “quite depressing”, and showed there had been “no substantial change” over the past decade. “Ten years ago, in 2013, Lenny Henry made headlines at the TV BAFTAS when he labelled it as ‘All white on the night’,” he said.

“And depressingly, despite a massive overhaul, on which I and many other industry people were consulted and which resulted in 120 changes to the BAFTA award processes, 1,000 new members from under-represented groups etc, the end result is there is no substantial change.”

Film and TV critic and BAFTA short film jury member Ashanti Omkar took to social media and said she felt quite devastated after watching the ceremony and seeing the group photo of winners. “Alison Hammond was the only person of the global majority in it, and she was not a winner but working at the event like many others who added colour to the red carpet, performed music and presented awards,” she said. “That felt regressive and like these were cosmetic steps forward as opposed to real systemic change.”

Film critic Omkar further added, the winners all deserved awards, but that she worried about whether people were going back to old voting practices after progress in recent years. “This is what I was feeling, and I honestly I was heartbroken,” she told BBC News. “I felt quite devastated.”

Writer and critic Leila Latif wrote in The Guardian that, on the night, there was a “creeping discomfort that the awards were benefiting from the work and presence of many people of colour without ever handing them a statuette”.

“By the end of the night, when it slowly sank in that every single winner was white, you could practically feel the Bafta team’s heads sink into their hands as they braced for yet another social media storm,” she said.

Three years ago American actor, Joaquin Phoenix’s attacked the white supremacy culture of BAFTA for being a place hailing ‘systemic racism’. Sadly, nothing much has changed.  In 2020 Joaquin Phoenix said in his speech, that he felt conflicted by his victory “because so many of my fellow actors who are deserving don’t have that same privilege”. He mentioned that a very clear message to people of colour that ‘you’re not welcome here.”

The organisation chairman Krishnendu Majumdar told the New York Times before the ceremony that he wants “to level the playing field”, but that recognition “has to be on merit”.

BAFTA chief executive Jane Millichip told the paper the process of reviewing the set-up would be ongoing and constant, and that the 2020 reforms were not a perfect full stop. In 2021 and 2022, half of the acting winners were not white.

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