- Joaquin Phoenix won the BAFTA Film Award for best actor on Sunday night.
- During his acceptance speech, he called out the “systematic racism” prevalent in the awards system and acknowledged that he is “part of the problem.”
- He said the lack of color present in the nominees sends a “very clear message to people of color that you’re not welcome here.”
When Joaquin Phoenix won a BAFTA Award last night, he used his winning speech to address the glaring lack of diversity among the nominees.
The absence of actors of color in this year’s race was evident right when the nominations were announced earlier this year. All the actors nominated were white—Scarlett Johansson and Margot Robbie were each nominated twice—and there were, once again, no women in the best director category. Films that revolved around stories and people of color—such as The Farewell, Us, Harriet, Hustlers, and Clemency—were lacking in nods. Even the chief executive of BAFTA, Amanda Berry, said she was “very disappointed” in the absence of diversity. But the damage had already been done.
Phoenix, who won best actor for his performance in Joker, addressed the issue when he collected his trophy. He said the lack of diversity sends “a very clear message to people of color that you’re not welcome here.” He added, “I think that’s the message that we’re sending to people that have contributed so much to our medium and our industry, and in ways that we benefit from.”
The actor also admitted, “I’m ashamed to say that I’m part of the problem,” and added, “I have not done everything in my power to ensure that the sets I work on are inclusive.”
He ended with a call to action, urging fellow members of the entertainment industry to do more than just have multicultural film sets. “We have to really do the hard work to truly understand systemic racism,” he said. “I think it is the obligation of the people that have created and perpetuate and benefit from a system of oppression to be the ones that dismantle it. So that’s on us.”
Phoenix’s comments can be applicable to all awards ceremonies this season, not just the BAFTAs. At this year’s Oscars, there are no women nominated for best director, and Cynthia Erivo is the only black actor who earned a nod, which she called “saddening.”
Read Phoenix’s speech in full below.
I feel very honored and privileged to be here tonight. The BAFTAs have already been very supportive of my career and I’m deeply appreciative. But I have to say that I also feel conflicted, because so many of my fellow actors that are deserving don’t have that same privilege.
I think that we send a very clear message to people of color that you’re not welcome here. I think that’s the message that we’re sending to people that have contributed so much to our medium and our industry, and in ways that we benefit from.
I don’t think anybody wants a handout or preferential treatment; although, that’s what we give ourselves every year. I think that people just want to be acknowledged, and appreciated, and respected for their work.
This is not a self-righteous condemnation, because I’m ashamed to say that I’m part of the problem. I have not done everything in my power to ensure that the sets I work on are inclusive.
But I think that it’s more than just having sets that are multicultural. I think that we have to really do the hard work to truly understand systemic racism.
I think that it is the obligation of the people that have created and perpetuate and benefit from a system of oppression to be the ones that dismantle it. So that’s on us.
Footage of Phoenix’s speech quickly spread online, and viewers, including fellow celebrities, praised the actor for publicly addressing the problem. However, some rightfully pointed out that the actor’s remarks are just one step of his efforts to bring about change. How will he follow up his words with actions?
— kerry washington (@kerrywashington) February 3, 2020
— Viola Davis (@violadavis) February 3, 2020
An uncomfortable silence filled the hall for a long noticeable moment. Thank you Joaquin.
— Lulu Wang (@thumbelulu) February 2, 2020
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Correct me if I’m wrong but this is the first time… In a long time… I see a white man uses the stage he’s given to say what we all need to hear.
We mostly hear women speak up and this is encouraging and will help our work. Thank you Joaquin. https://t.co/tuDA5iDtna
— Alma Har’el🌪 (@Almaharel) February 3, 2020
I look forward to him following this up with some action. Because without action, speeches like this mean nothing! https://t.co/kCaeedlP2S
— KB (@KaraRBrown) February 3, 2020
I am EXTREMELY curious to see what Joaquin Pheonix does moving forward. POC have heard white folks says these things for decades & they don’t put it into action. I’m watching him closely.
I hope he’s serious and steps up. Start producing POC films and work with POC directors pic.twitter.com/Q9iaFedMVw
— Christopher Nolan’s protégé 💋 (@ieshadaboya) February 2, 2020
Great acceptance speech from Joaquin Phoenix on systemic racism.
Now let’s turn rhetoric into action please. https://t.co/8VKvDqpGKa
— Topsy Taiwo (@topsytaiwo) February 2, 2020
From: Harper’s BAZAAR US