In an effort to diversify its ranks, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has issued 928 invitations to new members, almost half of whom are women and minorities, the Oscar-granting body announced on Monday. The move is part of a plan to increase the number of females and ethnic minorities in the Academy by the year 2020.
Among the new members invited is Algerian-French actress Sofia Boutella, who announced the news to her 332,000 Instagram followers by way of a screenshot of the official invite. “Thank you to @theacademy for inviting me to become a member,” she captioned the photo. Boutella, who has starred in The Mummy and Atomic Blonde, joins an inclusive cast of actors and international filmmakers including Jada Pinkett Smith, comedian Tiffany Haddish, Oscar-nominated Black Panther actor Daniel Kaluuya, and renowned Lebanese director and filmmaker Nadine Labaki. Also representing Lebanon is the cinematographer Ziad Doueiri who is most known for The Insult, which received a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2018 Academy Awards. Syrian film director Feras Fayyad (whose documentary Last Men in Aleppo was a 2018 Oscar nominee for the Best Documentary Feature) also got an invite.
The announcement comes after recent movements such as #OscarsSoWhite and #MeToo, which criticized the body of being overwhelmingly made up white males. To wit: The 2015 Academy Awards did not recognize a single actor of color, or female directors, screenwriters, and cinematographers. Many actors, including Lupita Nyong’o and Will Smith, verbally expressed their disappointment with the lack of diversity in the acting nominations, with many boycotting the annual ceremony altogether in an act of protest. Meanwhile, a report by The Los Angeles Times revealed that almost 94% of Academy members were white, and 77% of them were men. African-American, Latino, and Arab members each made up less than 2% of the total group.
In light of the boycott, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Cheryl Boone Isaacs released a statement, saying: “I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion. The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership.” Sure enough, in 2016 the Academy set a new record by extending invitations of membership to 683 people, followed by 774 member invites in 2017 to weigh in on the 2018 Academy Awards.
According to reports by Variety, the potential new class (should they accept the invitations) is 49% female and features 38% people of color. This will increase female representation from 28% to 31%, and representation of artists of color from 13% to 16%.