With its latest move against a perceived underrepresentation of women, minority groups and LGBTQ+, among others, within the film industry, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the world-famous custodian of the Oscar Statuette, published its new diversity rules on Tuesday. The new standards made worldwide ripples in cultural milieus, including Poland’s Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, whose Deputy Minister Jarosław Sellin called the Academy’s move “madness”.
The new rules are designed to improve inclusion both within the organisation and in the world of cinema as such.
“One would like to believe that film festivals are organised to pick out masterpieces. Professionals watch whilst us, the common audience, believe that those professionals know how to separate the wheat from the chaff and recommend to us outstanding pieces of cinema. Truth be told, it turns out that the artistic criterion has become ever less important at the expense of various politically correct goals,” Deputy Culture Minister Sellin said, expressing his regret.
The official continued saying that “we must approach the verdicts of grand festivals in an all the more sceptical way, mindful of the fact that madness took root in heads out there.”
The Academy’s new standards
As of 2024, in order to qualify for the Academy Awards’ Best Picture category, a film must meet two out of four standards in fields of on screen representation, offscreen creative leadership, apprenticeship opportunities for members of underrepresented groups and diversity in the ranks of the marketing and distribution departments.
This means that in order to meet the onscreen representation standard, at least one lead character or a significant supporting character in a movie must represent an underrepresented racial or ethnic group; at least 30 percent of secondary roles must be performed by two underrepresented groups; or the main storyline, theme or narrative must be centred around an underrepresented group, namely women, people of colour, LGBTQ+ people or people with disabilities.
The creative leadership and crew composition of a film, which is the second category, requires a film to have either at least two leadership positions or department heads from underrepresented groups and at least one from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group; at least six other crew members must originate from underrepresented racial or ethnic groups; or at least 30 percent of crew members must be from underrepresented groups.
The third category tackles paid internship and apprenticeship opportunities in addition to “training opportunities for below-the-line workers, and the fourth category addresses representation in marketing, publicity and distribution teams,” as reported by the Guardian.
“The aperture must widen to reflect our diverse global population in both the creation of motion pictures and in the audiences who connect with them,” the Academy’s head, David Rubin, and CEO, Dawn Hudson, said in a statement, adding that the pending standards would “be a catalyst for long-lasting, essential change in our industry.”
“The standards will be enforced via spot checks of sets and through dialogue between the academy and a movie’s filmmakers and distributors,” The New York Times wrote.
‘No temptations’ to introduce the Academy’s guidelines in Poland
Asked whether Polish films running for Oscars would have to comply with the Academy’s guidelines, Mr Sellin replied saying: “Let us ensure that we do not implement such criteria and let us simply send in a movie that we deem capable of contention for an award in the category of non-English movies.”
The Deputy Culture Minister pointed out that the Polish candidate to the Oscars was nominated by the cinema milieu. “Various disputes break out, namely, whether the right picture, the best Polish movie has been chosen. Albeit, I have not heard about temptations of introducing here in Poland this type of absurd criteria that the Academy in the US wants to implement.”
The official admitted that the introduction of diversity rules by the Academy reminded him of how George Orwell pictured “the construction of the new brave world by crazed ideological leftist-liberal doctrinaires.”