Joaquin Phoenix calls on film industry to dismantle “system of oppression” in BAFTAs speech

The star won the award for Leading Actor at the 2020 awards ceremony

Joaquin Phoenix called on the film industry to dismantle a “system of oppression” during his BAFTAs 2020 acceptance speech.

The star won Leading Actor for his role in Joker at the awards ceremony, which took place in London tonight (February 2).

During his speech, Phoenix said that while he was “honoured and privileged” to be in attendance and had received a lot of support from the BAFTAs organisation, he was also “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 colour that you’re not welcome here, I think that’s the message that we’re sending to people that have contributed so much to our medium and our industry and in ways that we benefit from,” he said. “I don’t think anybody wants a hand-out or preferential treatment, although that’s what we give ourselves every year. I think people want to be appreciated and respected for their work.”

Phoenix added that his statement was not “self-righteous condemnation” because he is also “part of the problem”. “I have not done everything in my power – not all sets I’ve worked on are inclusive,” he admitted.

“I think that we really have to do the hard work to truly understand systemic racism. It is the obligation of the people that have created and perpetuated and benefit from a system of oppression to dismantle it, so that’s on us.”

When the nominations for the 2020 BAFTAs were announced in January, the shortlists sparked controversy for their lack of diversity. No women were nominated for the Best Director category, while the acting categories also lacked representation of non-white stars.

Joker won only three awards at the 2020 BAFTAs despite going into the night with 11 nominations. As well as Phoenix’s Leading Actor nod, it was also awarded trophies for Casting and Original Score. You can see the full list of winners from the BAFTAs here.