BAFTA to review voting system after #BaftasSoWhite outcry

Its film committee head has conceded the nominations are "infuriating"

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) is set to review its voting system in the wake of a diversity row over this year’s nominations.

No people of colour were nominated in the acting categories nor were any female directors given the nod for directorial work, prompting widespread criticism.

The head of BAFTA’s film committee, Marc Samuelson, has now told Variety that there will be a “careful and detailed review within and outside the membership.” He conceded that this year’s voting resulted in an “infuriating” lack of diversity, and said any changes agreed upon in the review will be implemented ahead of voting for the 2021 awards.


Currently, the voting is divided into two rounds. The first is to determine nominations from specific “chapters” – made up of specialists from BAFTA’s 6,700 members – choosing nominees for categories such as best director, score and screenplay. The four main acting categories (leading actress, leading actor, supporting actress, supporting actor) are nominated by the full membership.

The BAFTAs 2020 take place on February 2

All BAFTA members vote on all the major awards after the first round is complete, with some specialist juries and chapters deciding the winners in certain categories such as best casting and best animated film.

The official BAFTA Twitter account attempted to explain why there are no female directors nominated for this year’s awards.

“The reality is only 16% of director entries were women this year, which makes noms that much harder to achieve. So we’re thrilled for the nominated female directors in Doc, Debut and FNIEL categories but completely agree more has to be done,” said one tweet written in response to a user.


The Guardian spoke to actors and academics who are advocating a “MeToo” moment on race in the UK film industry.

Dr Clive Nwonka, LSE Fellow in film studies, told the publication: “This is a very familiar industry reflex; a quick and very public statement to respond to the situation, which often denies any analysis of why the situation arose in the first place.”

Nwonka said the move was an immediate reaction to issues of the industry’s own making through “committee culture”, arguing that it would give the impression of proactivity without achieving results. “We will very likely be having this conversation again in a few years’ time,” he said.

Micheal Ward and Stephen Odubola in ‘Blue Story’. Credit: Paramount

Meanwhile, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, whose directorial debut feature Farming received no BAFTA nominations, said it was disappointing that despite it being a “momentous” year for actors and filmmakers of colour.

“I feel it was a momentous year for people of colour in film both in front of and behind the camera,” he told The Guardian. “It’s disappointing that there is a failure to recognise this contribution. Rather than bemoan the situation my response is simply to continue to make great work.”

Among those not nominated in this year’s awards are director Greta Gerwig for Little Women, director Rapman for British film Blue Story, and snubs for actors Jennifer Lopez (Hustlers), Cynthia Erivo (Harriet) Lupita Nyong’o (Us) and Eddie Murphy for his role in Netflix’s blaxploitation-era drama, Dolemite is my Name.

This follows the BAFTAs announcement they had changed their criteria at the end of 2016 to encourage diversity. Films hoping to compete in the Outstanding British Film and Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director, or Producer categories at the awards now have to show that they’ve made an effort to use diverse talent both in front of the camera and behind the scenes, and in their narrative.

The admission policy for judges was also changed, meaning applicants no longer had to have two recommendations from current members, so talent without as many connections could stand a chance.

The BAFTAS will be held on February 2, 2020.

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