'The Hateful Eight's Demian Bichir On Oscar Diversity Uproar: “Art Is Art”

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. 

Deadline Guest Shot BadgeArt 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.

    1. Yeah, everything he said makes sense but making sense gets ignored by the PC crowd (and by PC I mean professional complainers).

      Stay tuned for Deadline’s update tomorrow; “Demian Bichir apologizes for “art is art” comment”.

  1. Yes, he makes sense – but, nowhere does he mention Asian actors, for example. They are busy getting on with their lives instead of whining and pontificating.
    I guess we all have our prejudices, afterall how many white / Asian /Latino faces do you see in a Spike Lee flick?

    1. Everybody is “forgetting” women and LBGT actors here! Until our culture gives equal attention to them, and the African American, Latino and Asian artists, the movies & nominations will never be “equal”. That just isn’t going to happen by forcing new rules on AMPAS!

      1. Nobody is forgetting women, they have equality in the film industry and mountains of varieties. Stop pretending women are victims in Hollywood.

    2. He makes a great point. There is too much complaining and not enough action from POC (Making better films, writing better characters, etc).

      Spike has always had multi-ethnic cast btw.

  2. This controversy is not about Hollywood being racist. Of course it is, as is society and as are human beings. This whole thing is about Will Smith not getting nominated and making a big self-righteous deal about it. Let´s admit that. Hollywood is many things, but mostly it is hypocritical, self-centered and narcissistic. That’s the root of all this. Let’s be honest (another hollywood no-no), admit it and then, if we so please, talk racism, ageism, clubbyness and all the other stuff.

  3. Wow so eloquent and smart.
    He said so many things that made sense and brought things into perspective, especially that no Latin has ever won for a leading role.
    Also, loved his sandwich line (how many of us are guilty of pausing and running in the kitchen, though I’m not an Academy member lol).
    I’ve always loved his as an actor but I love him as a person even more! Kudos to him!

  4. Bravo Mr. Bichir. Well said. The Academy Award is an Artistic Award not a political correct award. Would Mr. Smith or his wife for that matter want to win an award based on their talent or their skin color? And why is it that when checking Mr.Smith’s credits on IMDB, not one of his films had a Back writer, Director or Producer. Dosn’t Mr. Smith have final script approval?

  5. “Yes, there should be African Americans nominated this year.”

    Why? Were they better than everyone else? In whose opinion? And let’s not forget that the Academy Awards are, at the end of the day, nothing more than a matter of opinion.

    Should there be African Americans nominated in every year? Regardless of how their work stands up to other performers?

    In years when African Americans won acting Academy Awards, was it for their performances, or their skin color? And, is there any reason this should only work one way?

  6. He makes absolute sense. If you’re in the Academy you cannot say, well, I’m not going to watch Straight Outta Compton, it’s not my type of movie. Something so many members stated. That immediately should disqualify you to vote or be a member. Come the frack on. If you’re going to pick the best movies of the year, you should be required to watch the movies…

  7. Again though, Mexico has its own flourishing TV and movie industry. So is he really the right guy for this article? Notice how he says Mexicans, but not Mexican-AMERICANS or other Latino Americans. Under this call for diversity, Latinos north of the border would still be invisible.

  8. Its amazing how people can read an article like this and continue with their rants being PC and its Spike Lee’s fault. He clearly states lets ALL rally right now because the Academy is 2% of 6000 comprised of Hispanic and Black talent. He goes on to say a Mexican has never won an Oscar for best acting. The other big thing he mentioned in detail is Academy members need to actually WATCH the films nominated. Diversity in what films get made is a problem. He / Jada and the rest shouldnt have specifically state Asian talent because they are included in the people of color tentpole. Add a binder full of women and you get DIVERSITY.

    Also, to the person who said Spike never cast a Hispanic actor has never seen Spikes movies.

    1. So, he believes that because there wasn’t a black actor, etc., nominated that I didn’t watch the submitted movies? The reality is that those of us who are voting members didn’t find every movie that we viewed to be Oscar worthy. It doesn’t mean that we believe that they weren’t ‘good’. It means that they weren’t deemed to be EXCELLENT.

      Not everyone can win, every year. But I’ll tell you this, I’ve heard an awful lot of very influential voting members who are privately pissed off that they’ve been publicly shamed and called racists by elitist blacks. They’re liberals who are, shall we say — reflecting.

      With that said, chances are, there won’t be a black ‘anything’ nominated for a long time because, after all, repercussions for humiliating a liberal is pretty intense……in private. Remember who holds the cards. Spike and Jada just publically called white voting members of the Academy — racists. What you think the result of THAT bullshit is going to be.

  9. Out of all the people entering the fray on this – including Barclay, Demme et all, Bichir and Iñárritu make the most compelling cases through just plain common sense.

    You cannot vote for what has not been made; you cannot vote for involvement in production where there is no representation. Those two things are where needed change is most urgently required.

    Only THEN can you look to change how you nominate and have it mean a damn thing.

    Finally and maybe most importantly of all – the Academy must demand absolutely outright that every nominated picture is viewed in a movie theater to be eligible for voting rights in a given category. It is beyond insane to be empowered to vote to reward “the best”, without having been required to determine in any way what “the best” actually was.

  10. Damian Bechir couldn’t be more accurate with what he writes above. The Academy’s responsibility is to reward the motion picture industry’s best films, performances by talent and filmmakers – not to make the business decisions behind what films get made and who gets cast in them and even more importantly, who makes them. That is the job of the studios, production companies and indie filmmakers. The Academy is not only making a bad judgement call and one that in other areas of society could be considered “caving to terrorist demands” – but one that will hurt it moving forward for decades. This decision that wasn’t fairly voted on (or even discussed) by its full membership, is a very bad one.

    continued in Part 2…

  11. cont. from Part 1…

    I loved the film Concussion, I voted for it. I thought Will Smith was brilliant in it and hearing him speak about his role at several QandA’s, made me wish I could vote for him. But as I am not a member of the Actor’s branch, I could only cast my vote for the film. As we’re all well aware, Will’s peers in the Actor’s branch didn’t feel the same about his role (or even the film) and that resulted in no nominations. Will Smith is now publicly boycotting the Oscars and to me, that’s more than him making a statement on behalf of the lack of diversity in the Academy. Will Smith has 37 acting credits to his name and 25 producing credits. Depending on which box office list you look at, Will Smith ranks as the 20th highest grossing actor in history ($6.6 billion+ worldwide). Will Smith can not only make any film he wants, he can get any film he wants made – and that means he can be very influential on who directs it and who stars in it. Will Smith has NEVER worked for or with an African American director. Of the 25 producing credits he has, he has never once pushed for diversity in his films by hiring an African American director – not even the films that he has put his kids in. How ironic that Will Smith can now say that he’s boycotting the Academy Awards because he believes there is a problem with the Academy. He’s right, he has a problem – but it’s because he wasn’t nominated this year – not because of diversity as he’s claiming. Will Smith has been nominated for Best Actor by the Academy twice (Ali and The Pursuit of Happyness) and lost out both times to fellow African American actors, Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker, respectively. I guess the Academy wasn’t deemed “racist” in those years where 40% of the Best Actor nominees were African American.

  12. cont. from Part 2
    I am all in favor of “doing the right thing,” as the recent Governor’s Award recipient Spike Lee once said – but branding the Academy’s members as racist isn’t fair. The change that needs to happen in this industry is on the creative and business sides – where the ultimate decisions lie in what movies get made, who makes them and who stars in them is decided.

    The Academy’s elected Board of Governor’s, Officers and Senior Executive Mgmt. should be ashamed of themselves for this self-righteous decision to degrade the membership and the Awards process and hopefully many of them will be voted out of the positions in which they wrongfully serve.

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