Gil Robertson, President of AAFCA, Weighs in on Diversity in Hollywood & the Oscars

Priscilla Liguori/ WEBN-TV

By Priscilla Liguori 2/25/2016

The Oscars is receiving significant backlash for a lack of diversity amongst nominees.

Gil Robertson, President of the African American Film Critics Association, thinks the lack of inclusion in the film industry is the root of this issue.

“The Academy can only evaluate and nominate what’s available for them to screen,” said Robertson. “So really, it’s a bigger problem that the system of Hollywood and film needs to address. That’s the only access and opportunity, and so far they are failing at providing opportunity to racial minorities and to women.”

For the second year in a row, the Academy nominated all white actors and actresses.

Priscilla Liguori/ WEBN-TV

Priscilla Liguori/ WEBN-TV

#OscarsSoWhite trended on Twitter once the nominees were announced. “Creed” and “Straight Outta Compton” were two of many movies fans wanted to see nominated for acting and directing.

Nevertheless, Robertson said he thinks Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs and CEO Dawn Hudson are being leaders in the battle for diversity.

“They recently implemented a plan with a goal for increasing the number of racial minorities, people with disabilities, people from different sexual identities, and women,” explained Robertson.

In a statement released Jan. 22, Isaacs said the Academy is not going to wait for the industry to catch up.

“These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition,” said Isaacs in the statement.

“I think there was a consorted effort both before and after the controversy to let people know that diversity is important to the Academy,” said Robertson.

Priscilla Liguori/ WEBN-TV

Priscilla Liguori/ WEBN-TV

Many celebrities including Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee have chosen to boycott the Oscars publicly.

“I think people who have issues with the academy…maybe they should use that as a platform to speak about the issue and to hopefully continue to expand the conversation,” said Robertson.

Robertson said he still doesn’t think a boycott is the most effective way to deal with the lack of inclusion.

“We’re part of the industry so to not participate in the most important event…a time where the industry celebrates itself…is silly,” said Robertson.

Nevertheless, Robertson is hopeful the drumbeat for diversity in cinema will continue to grow.

“The conversation has been framed in black and white but it’s a lot deeper than that, and I hope people can understand that,” said Robertson.

Robertson suggested that people in underrepresented communities count on their talents and visions to create their projects.

“I would suggest that for women and for communities of color that they begin to take matters into their own hands by investing in their own projects and with technology putting them out there on their own independently,” said Robertson.

Robertson said both filmmakers and consumers have a responsibility to diversify the film industry.

USA Today released a report saying suggesting films being released in 2017 don’t appear to have more diverse directors and performers.

“Go into the cinema and put down your money and support those movies because trust me, if a film makes money, Hollywood will certainly continue to make those types of projects,” said Robertson.

The African American Film Critics Association is the largest group of African American film critics in the world. It represents film critics over all mediums of journalism.

“Our primary mission is to provide support and resources to the next generation of African Americans who are looking to establish a career as entertainment journalists. We also provide support and resources to film projects that deal with the black diaspora or feature black performers,” said Robertson.