Director calls out Baftas for lack of diversity

Steve McQueen
Steve McQueen

LONDON • Oscar-winning British director Steve McQueen has criticised Britain's top film awards following controversy over the lack of diversity in this year's nominations.

McQueen, the first black director to win an Academy Award - for 12 Years A Slave in 2014 - said the Baftas risked being "of no interest to anyone" if it fails to become more inclusive.

The criticism came after the shortlist of nominees for top awards released by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) lacked women and people from minority backgrounds.

There are no non-white actors in the four main acting categories, while no female film-makers are up for the Best Director award.

The backlash at the shortlist prompted Bafta to announce it will conduct a "careful and detailed review" of its voting system, while insisting gender balance was an "industry-wide problem".

But McQueen, who has seen two of his films previously win Bafta awards, called that stance "nonsense".

"When these films are being made to critical acclaim, they're not even being recognised," he told The Guardian newspaper on Monday. "After a while you get a bit fed up with it. Because if the Baftas are not supporting British talent... then I don't understand what you are there for. "

The Hollywood director, who received a knighthood in Queen Elizabeth II's annual new year's honours list, said without reform, the Baftas would eventually have "no credibility at all".

"They have to change," he added, noting British talent that could have been nominated this year included actress Marianne Jean-Baptiste for In Fabric, singer-actress Cynthia Erivo for Harriet and actor Daniel Kaluuya for Queen & Slim.

A 2018 report conducted by business psychology firm Pearn Kandola found 94 per cent of all Bafta film award nominees have been white.

The Oscars has faced similar criticisms in recent years, with all-white lists of acting nominees in 2015 and 2016.

This year's Baftas will be held on Feb 2 in London.

Dark comic-book drama Joker, starring Golden Globes winner Joaquin Phoenix, leads the pack with 11 nominations, including for Best Film.

Martin Scorsese's gangster epic The Irishman and Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood received 10 nominations each.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 15, 2020, with the headline 'Director calls out Baftas for lack of diversity'. Subscribe