Written by: Ann Maria
Diversity in the cinematic industry
Movies and television series are our major sources of entertainment especially when the pandemic hit the entire world. The lockdown made each and every one of us explore, indulge and watch various types of movies and series. We all have a favorite actor, actress, a director or any person who is working in the field. In the outside all of it might seem shiny and glittery with people in the industry having the perfect life, but what people fail to acknowledge is the representation of people from different communities in the industry, sometimes we fail to recognise the internal aspects of the cinematic world, and the struggles a person from a minority community has to go through to reach a proper level in the field.
The Hollywood film and British film industry
According to the 2011 UCLA report more than half of the films had cast diversity of less than 11 percent. Even though in the 21st century, a decade back it can be noticed that there was systematic racism which was present, there was not much casting of people who were from the African - American, Asian and Latino community. The year 2011 had the lowest cast diversity, there also was not much equality when it came to the direction of movies, it was reported that more men had the chance of directing big budget movies than women. Coming to the topic of oscars, it was a known fact that there were very few nominations amongst different communities and having all white nominations most of the time. In 2015, lawyer-turned-activist April Reign took aim at that year's overwhelmingly white Academy Awards nominations with a jokey tweet "#OscarsSoWhite they asked to touch my hair..." – and, in doing so, inadvertently galvanised others to speak up. Then, when the 2016 Oscar nominations were announced, and for the second year in a row, all 20 acting nominations were given to white actors, the cause really attracted worldwide attention. Rather than the usual discussion predicting who would win what, social media lit up with #OscarsSoWhite posts criticising the Academy Awards for its shameful lack of inclusivity. During this time many pillars of the film industry boycotted the Academy awards which became a huge crisis at that time, and forced the Oscars to have more inclusivity for the nominations during the year of 2020.
(As we all know 2020 has been the most diverse year for the oscars)
When it comes to the British film industry, even though there are diversity standards which were passed by the BFI (British film Institute) it has failed in tackling the racism when it comes to employing the BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) on-screen and off-screen as well. In a report entitled Race and Ethnicity in the UK Film Industry, Dr Clive Nwonka, fellow in film at the London School of Economics, has investigated the industry’s response to the BFI diversity standards that were introduced in 2014 to try to improve the BAME presence in production crews and subject matter in British films. The report pointed out that there were considerably less people than the underrepresented group employed, especially behind the cameras, there were many films where no BAME people were employed behind the camera. This report also pointed out the fact that the BAME people were given the lead/main role, they were always given the side/supporting role, even when the BFI diversity standards were followed.
Nwonka said: “The BFI diversity standards have performed a crucial role in focusing attention on the issue, but our analysis shows that racial under-representation remains a structural condition within the sector, both on and off-screen. BAME individuals still face significant inequalities and our analysis suggests that the diversity standards are not yet robust enough to respond to the intersectional and multi-dimensional nature of racial inequality in the industry.”
The Indian entertainment industry
The Indian industry is a very diverse industry when it comes under the cultural criterion, industries like tollywood, kollywood, mollywood, bollywood and many more are present in the field of the film industry. The major problem these film industries face is nepotism, especially the bollywood industry, which makes things hard for people who do not come from a background of film actors, and even worse when they come from a minority background. The amount of corruption which runs through these industries is also a major problem which should be reduced and checked. It is due to these problems people from the lower castes or classes are not able to fulfill their dreams to become an entertainer.
There was one instance which would completely summarise what happens in the Indian entertainment industry, “Enjoy Enjaami” was a song which became a huge hit in India, especially in the south. The lyrics were written by Arivu and it was sung by a singer named Dhee. Arivu who himself is a person from a lower caste, he was a dalit, he wrote amazing lyrics and sang songs about his caste, and how is community was always sidelined and ignored. He also wrote a song called “Neeyaoli” and the music platform Rolling stone did not give proper credentials for Arivu, and they sidelined him, even the independent record label Maajja was criticised for sidelining the lyricist for his song Enjoy Enjaami. Filmmaker Pa. Ranjith himself posted about the issue, calling out Rolling Stone and music platform Maajja for sidelining Arivu, writing “@TherukuralArivu, the lyricist of #Neeyaoli and singer as well as lyricist of #enjoyenjami has once again been invisibilized. @RollingStoneIN and @joinmaajja is it so difficult to understand that the lyrics of both songs challenge this erasure of public acknowledgement?”
When it comes to film industries as mentioned before, there are a lot of cases of nepotism and corruption, but what people face is discrimination by their skin colour especially in the bollywood industry, so if a person is naturally darkskinned and from a minority community cannot even dream of getting into the industry, and people who are from the southern industry sometimes have a hard time in the northern industry because of racism and discrimination which is present in the system.
In conclusion the film industries should focus on including people from the under represented communities. All of us have a dream, we work hard towards it, and proper protocols and standards should be set so that people from the BIPOC community can fulfill their dreams of being in the entertainment industry. The mindset of the people should also change, because more viewers also play an integral role in this industry. There are numerous cases, especially in India where, when a new person debuts in the industry, the first thing people search is their caste. Even when it comes to the K-POP industry, the culture there is very traditional, it is very unlikely that Koreans will even accept people from foreign countries, and moreover the “cancel culture’’ surprisingly has a lot of presence in South Korea.
At the end of the day, caste, class, color, race and ethnicity never matter, what matters is the personality and talent of the particular individual. As mentioned before strict diversity standards should be implemented so that there would be more inclusivity in the cinematic industry.