Film Academy Diversifies its Membership

HOLLYWOOD (CNS) - In the latest step in its ongoing campaign to diversify an overwhelmingly white and male membership, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has invited a record-setting 928 film professionals from 59 countries to join its ranks.

Some are well-known celebrities whose faces routinely grace magazine covers and screens big and small. The names of many others would be unrecognizable to even the most diehard cinephile, the Los Angeles Times reported.

But as of Monday, they all share one common descriptor: new member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

This marks the academy' largest and most diverse class ever, ranging in age from 14-year-old actress Quvenzhan Wallis, who, at 9, became the youngest ever lead actress nominee, to 86-year-old Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina, topping last year's 774 new members, which itself was a leap over the previous year's 684 invitees.

The new additions, which, according to the group's figures, are 49 percent female and 38 percent people of color, swells the membership of Hollywood's leading institution to more than 9,200. In just three years, the academy has grown by more than 25 percent, dramatically reshaping the 90-year- old organization, though not without generating controversy among some within its ranks.

In decades past, annual invitations were sent out with little or no fanfare, and quotas limited the number closer to 100 invitees.

But in 2016, after weathering two years of often bitter blowback over the Oscars' back-to-back all-white slates of acting nominees, the academy publicly pledged itself to a goal of doubling the number of women and minorities among its members by 2020. Since then, the unveiling of each successive new class has become a bona fide media event, complete with a splashy web site featuring graphs and charts detailing the group's progress toward its diversity benchmarks.

Photo: Getty Images

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