Since the #oscarssowhite movement took off in 2015, the Academy of Motional Picture Arts and Sciences has been under fire for its lack of diversity. It took five years, but real changes have officially been made. The organisation just announced a new set of representation and inclusion standards for the Oscars—and the industry is celebrating.
As part of their Academy Aperture 2025 initiative—a plan to increase diversity in the film industry—films will now be required to submit a confidential Academy Inclusion Standards form to be considered for the most prestigious award: Best Picture.
The move is historic and could mark the end of stereotypical tropes for minorities and people of colour, including Arabs, in the industry. After 9/11, Arab actors have been pigeonholed into playing the parts of terrorists or oil-rich billionaires, but with increased demands for representation over the years, that has slowly been changing.
Last year, the Academy proved its strides by making Rami Malek the first Arab to score an award in the Best Actor category. Outside of the Academy, Hollywood as a whole is making major strides towards real diversity, as the likes of Ramy Youssef have seen immense success with Emmy-nominations and Golden Globes wins for storylines and cast members that embrace the Arab experience.
And now, with the new standards imposed by the Academy, the industry as a whole will now forcibly be structured to embrace diversity, if they wish to be nominated for the industry’s most coveted award.
To be considered, films must conform to four new sets of standards. They must offer on-screen representation, as well as diversity in creative leadership positions and crew and provide industry access to minority groups via paid apprenticeships or internships, or have a diverse marketing, publicity and distribution team.
Wondering how the Academy will impose the requirements? To satisfy the on-screen representation standard, the film must include an actor from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group as either the leading actor or a significant supporting actor. Films can also qualify if at least 30 per cent of the cast is comprised of women, an underrepresented racial group, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, or are disabled. If not, the main storyline should be centred on an underrepresented group.
The new requirements will not come into play just yet. As of 2022, films must adhere to at least one of the above requirements to be eligible for the Best Picture award. Starting in 2024, any film submitting for best picture must adhere to at least two of the four standards.
“The aperture must widen to reflect our diverse global population in both the creation of motion pictures and in the audiences who connect with them,” said Academy president David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson in a joint statement, “The Academy is committed to playing a vital role in helping make this a reality”.