Despite its prestige, the Academy has its problems. Diversity has long been chief among them.
Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the current President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the first POC and the third woman ever to hold the office, knows from experience how hard it is to introduce diversity in the film industry. On the eve of an Oscars ceremony that features the third ever black nominee for Best Director, Boone Isaacs talked to Reuters about diversity. Her biggest message – it’s an ongoing effort and there are no easy fixes.
As president of the Academy, Boone Isaacs has a front row seat to a major cultural shift.
"I believe very strongly that the entertainment and motion picture business is going to be more open and aware of different voices," Boone Isaacs told Reuters in an interview at the academy's headquarters.
For her, diversity is more about different narrative voices, rather than skin color, gender or religion. Put simply, people with different experiences have different stories to tell. Boone Isaacs calls it the best year for performances and films "in the last decade or so," and said there are "quite a few films that give us a different voice, a more diverse voice."
"The themes for the nine films nominated for Best Picture are really a wide range. And that is what makes it very special."
Setting aside the fact that as president, she’s practically obligated to boost the award show’s profile, it does seem like the Oscars are on the cusp of a major breakthrough this year. If Steve McQueen takes Best Director for 12 Years A Slave, it would make him the first black director to get it. Ever. In the whole history of the Oscars. Let that sink in for a minute. Far from lamenting the state of things, however, Boone Isaacs is optimistic about the possibility. "I would say that means a major door will have been kicked down." she said.