17th July 2020. Contributor: Jean Sat
There is no doubt that Hollywood dominates the global film industry. Also, it is now common knowledge that Hollywood is not as representational of genders, races and cultures in its films or production teams as it should ideally be. As global viewers widen their preference for films made across the world, are we ready for a creative disruption in filmmaking?
A report from the University of Southern California (USC) Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, which analysed the top 100 films each year since 2007, discovered that white actors were cast in 70.7% of all speaking roles and only 31.8% of characters were women, with only 4 women of colour as leads in 2017. Forty three out of these 100 films had no black female characters at all and 65 had no Asian female characters. New data from the same initiative published in January 2020 however suggests that a small improvement in hiring women directors in Hollywood was observed in 2019.
Even with campaigns such as #OscarsSoWhite, the lack of diversity still reigns supreme. People of colour (POC) are still not seeing culturally authentic stories play out on screen. This because the vast majority of Hollywood films are still set in the United States. Some believe, through Hollywood productions, American culture is essentially homogenising the global culture, with America’s own. Sadly, there seems to be a cycle at play in this industry which reuses the same group of people from the same cultural and ethnic backgrounds leading to this cultural homogenisation.
In order to break this cycle, there needs to be more bridges between Hollywood and film industries from around the world, more Hollywood films set in other counties depicting authentic local cultures and its people. International film festivals such as the Big Syn International film festival too are making viewers worldwide aware of the need for this. This free, online film festival is the world’s biggest of its kind and offers viewers the opportunity to educate themselves about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals through entertaining, meaningful and relatable features, shorts, animations and documentaries from across the world.
Hollywood should aim to be more inclusive and offer opportunities to more diverse human resources in the industry. The excuses used by Hollywood, such as how their audiences cannot relate to actors who are POC like they can with white actors, have already proven wrong. The recent feature, Black Panther, was one of the highest-grossing films at the U.S. box office in the past decade – all with a predominantly black cast. Also, recently the South Korean film, Parasite, won the best film at the Oscars. Surely these indicate the global audience’s intention to pay to watch more diverse stories, set outside the United States, depicting diverse races and cultures.
Given the significant influence of films on people’s preferences and attitudes, it is hoped that films that tell meaningful and diverse stories and have more racial, gender and cultural diversity than those in current Hollywood productions, will contribute to developing a more tolerant global society.
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