Steve McQueen Says BAFTAs Risk Becoming “Irrelevant” Over Diversity Issues

Steve McQueen
Steve McQueen Stephen Chung/LNP/Shutterstock

12 Years A Slave filmmaker Steve McQueen has said that the BAFTA Awards are in danger of becoming “irrelevant, redundant and of no interest or importance” unless the organization addresses the lack of diversity in its nominations.

Last week, BAFTA received criticism for nominating no women in the Best Director field for the seventh year in a row, and an all-white set of acting nominees. The org itself called the problem “frustrating and deeply disappointing” in a letter to its members.

Speaking to UK newspaper The Guardian, McQueen called on BAFTA to tackle the issue.

“After a while you get a bit fed up with it. Because if the BAFTAs are not supporting British talent, if you’re not supporting the people who are making headway in the industry, then I don’t understand what you are there for,” said the filmmaker.

McQueen pointed to the likes of Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Joanna Hogg, Cynthia Erivo, and Daniel Kaluuya who all missed nominations, but also added that it was “not even just British talent, it’s talent in general”, highlighting the likes of Lupita Nyongo’o.

He also refuted the suggestion that BAFTA’s lack of diversity was reflective of a wider industry problem, as the org has stated.  “When these films are being made to critical acclaim [and] they’re not even being recognized – that’s nonsense,” McQueen said.

“With the BAFTAs, if [filmmakers] are not recognized visually in our culture, well what’s the bloody point? It becomes irrelevant, redundant and of no interest or importance. End of,” he added.

McQueen also said that “black British talent gets very much overlooked” in the UK and suggested that those talents may need to look to the U.S. to get recognition. We’ll see when the Oscar nominations are unveiled today whether the U.S. Academy’s 2020 contenders are a more diverse pool.

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