Hailing from an acting family, Demian Bichir became a top star in Mexico and established himself in Hollywood with a milestone performance in A Better Life that led him to be the first Mexican since Anthony Quinn to be Oscar nominated for Best Actor. Bichir, currently on the screen in Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, has written a guest column for Deadline on the Oscar diversity issue.
Art is art and it should not be divided into colors. Yes, there should be African Americans nominated this year but there should also be Mexicans. We Academy members do not determine who gets nominated within some sort of conclave. We all vote privately.
There cannot and will not be African American or Mexican artists nominated in the different categories if this industry doesn’t make enough relevant, transcendental, meaningful movies with more African American and Mexicans in leading roles. Perhaps African American directors should cast Mexicans or Hispanics for the leading roles in their films. Perhaps Mexican directors should cast African American actors in the leading roles of their films.
I am not a big fan of dividing art with “Latin this” or “Black that.” We are artists, period. And it’s only the power of our work which will command everyone’s attention, not just that of the Academy but of the people in general. If African American and Hispanic artists form only two percent of the six thousand members of the Academy, let’s all rally right now because, guess what, no Mexican actor has ever won an Oscar in the leading role category. We are way behind in terms of equality when it comes to the types of stories we tell in our industry.
The announcement made by Cheryl Boone Isaacs is, without a doubt, good news, but before making any changes, we, the members of the Academy, will have to begin by taking the responsibility of voting seriously. Voting is a privilege. Watching every film should be an obligation, especially when voting. And I don’t mean talking on the phone or texting during the film. I mean paying the same attention and respect you would demand from others when they’re watching your film. And if for some reason you have to watch them at home, it would be a good idea if you didn’t have to pause them to make a sandwich. Take advantage, if you can, of the benefits the Academy gives us, which is to watch the films in a movie theater the way they were intended to be seen. Making this industry more fair and diverse begins with us, when we do things differently as we write, create, produce and watch the films that make us dream.