In diversity push, Oscars Academy opens door to 683 new members

Hollywood's most exclusive club opened its ranks Wednesday to hundreds of new members Wednesday in a bid to increase diversity, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said.

The group announced it has extended membership invitations to 683 new members in its "class of 2016" - nearly half of them women and four out of 10 non-white.

They will join the about 6,200 Academy members who vote for the Oscars, cinema's highest award.

"I got in! Excited to use my vote to nominate talent that reflects the real world we live in - DIVERSITY," 2016 best actress Oscar winner Brie Larson wrote on Twitter.

Among the black and Latino actors making the cut were Star Wars' John Boyega and Oscar Isaac, Ice Cube and Damon Wayans Jr.

Actresses Tina Fey, Eva Mendes, Carmen Ejogo, America Ferrara, Anika Noni Rose also received invites.

"This class continues our long-term commitment to welcoming extraordinary talent reflective of those working in film today," Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs said.

"We encourage the larger creative community to open its doors wider," she added.

Academy member Laura Karpman, a film composer, called the class of 2016 "a sea change."

"It indicates that people do want change. They're voting for it," she told the Los Angeles Times.

This year's Oscars drew widespread protest after its nominees included only white actors for the second year in a row, and few nominees of colour for any awards.

Among those snubbed were black actors Idris Elba and Michael B Jordan and director Ryan Coogler, all of whom were invited to join the Academy in the class of 2016.

African American director ands Academy member Ava DuVernay, whose 2014 civil rights biopic Selma received only two Oscar nominations in what was widely seen as a race-based snub, said the move was "a good start."

"I'm proud of the effort. It was intentional. It was intense. It was inclusive. And it was imperative," she said in a statement. "The Academy is heading in the right direction on a long road."

Boone Isaacs had previously announced measures to increase diversity among the group's Oscar voters, members who skew overwhelmingly older, white and male.

In March, the group's board named a more ethnically diverse cohort of members to new leadership positions.

The Academy vowed to increase membership by women and ethnic minorities 20 per cent by 2020, and to strip members of their Oscars votes after 10 years of inactivity in the industry - a move widely seen as a purge of older members from voter rolls.

But there is still far to go toward the goal of equal representation.

The class of 2016 will bring the representation of women in the Academy up to 27 per cent from 25 per cent, and the representation of non-white actors to 11 per cent from 8 per cent.

Last update: Thu, 30/06/2016 - 10:54


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