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'12 Years' a game changer for diversity

February 18th, 2014
01:45 PM ET

As '12 Years a Slave' took top honors at the BAFTA Awards, all eyes were on the film's black cast – and especially director Steve McQueen.  If he wins the Best Director prize at next month's Academy Awards, McQueen will become the first black director ever to win.

Atika Shubert spoke with John Akomfrah, a Former Governor of the British Film Institute.  She asked him what McQueen's BAFTA win meant for diversity in the film industry.

"I think Steve winning is confirmation of a trend taking place anyway," Akomfrah said.  "And by that I mean, for instance, 12 years ago, if you had a film called '12 Years a Slave,' the idea would be that it would go to a white director because it's big and so it's appropriate that it should go to a white director.  The fact that a major African diaspora story is done by a black director of black British heritage and descent is, I think, significant."

Atika also asked what Akomfrah would consider to be a true sign of diversity in cinema.

"If Steve's example became a trend, so that there were more people like Steve," he replied.  "If a range of black acting talent continues to be both affirmed and endorsed by both BAFTA and the Academy."


Filed under:  Analysis • Celebrity • Entertainment • History • Hollywood • London • Oscars • Video
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