David Oyelowo Talks Racism at the Oscars & Why BAFTA Should ‘Take Back the Power’

David Oyelowo recently sat down for a chat with Screen’s Screen Talks live Q&A series, during which he told the organisers of BAFTA that what the awards ceremony “needs to do is to not be so closely tied to the Oscars. It needs to happen at a different date.

He continued, “Bafta cannot be like the Golden Globes and everything else, just a precursor, and therefore a self-fulfilling prophecy – basically a road trip for Hollywood to hit London on the way to the Oscars.”

“We have a very specific identity as the British film industry that should be independent [of the Oscars],” he added. “That’s something to also be thinking about in this moment: who are we as the British film industry, not just a stop on the way to the Oscars.”

“That will bring about real change,” he said, “because when you think about the Grammys, it’s independent of the Mobos. The Emmys has its own identity; the TV Baftas is not a stop on the way to the Emmys. Change that date! You are not Oscars’ poor cousin; change the date, and be something that is truly autonomous of that.

“Take back the power, Bafta – I’m just saying!”

And then the Nigerian superstar went on to talk about the Selma protest and how the Academy Awards members reacted to it.

“Six years ago,” he said, “Selma coincided with Eric Garner being murdered. That was the last time we were in a place of ‘I Can’t Breathe’ [a slogan for the movement taken from Garner’s last words before he died at the hands of US police].

“I remember at the premiere of Selma us wearing ‘I Can’t Breathe’ T-shirts in protest. Members of the Academy called in to the studio and our producers saying, ‘How dare they do that? Why are they stirring S-H-I-T?’ and ‘We are not going to vote for that film because we do not think it is their place to be doing that.’

“It’s part of why that film didn’t get everything that people think it should’ve got and it birthed #OscarsSoWhite,” continued Oyelowo. “They used their privilege to deny a film on the basis of what they valued in the world.”

And Ava DuVernay concurred to this.

You can read all about the rest of the Screen Talks session here.

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