Over the last few days, we’ve seen a few films being made free to stream in the US. These included Selma and Just Mercy. Both films should help educate people about the role of race in their society. It’s a great thing to do because there will be plenty of people who won’t have previously had access to them. Of course, Hollywood films that depict the difficulties faced by black people in America are all well and good but it’s facts that are needed in this fight. Which is why Netflix’s decision to make Ava DuVarney’s documentary 13th free to non-subscribers is so important. There’s a reason that it has appeared on so many lists of ways you can educate yourself. It’s a great place to start if you’re the type who is unconvinced by the idea that society has been engineered to make black lives difficult. If you go in with an open mind, it’ll definitely have the power to shock you.
I know you’re probably getting sick of me banging on about diversity at the Oscars by now but I’m tired of hearing people say “it’s about quality, not diversity”. Yeah, in an ideal world. This isn’t an ideal world. What the people using that argument are either stubbornly, naively, or purposefully not seeing is that the system is weighted against diverse entries. The voting system is a joke. The first round lets all members of the Academy vote for whichever eligible films they want in their related categories. You don’t have to have seen all of the films. We know that a lot of members are quite traditional (see Martin Scorsese and his hatred of comic book movies) and have specific ideas of what should and shouldn’t be eligible (see Steven Spielberg’s comments on Netflix). How many of those eligible to vote will have bothered to go out and watch Hustlers to see that J Lo gave a much better performance than Scar Jo did in Jojo? We also know that Hollywood champions films that will make money and they don’t think films with diverse casts or storylines will make money. Then there are the smaller film companies who can’t afford to put on a huge campaign for their films/stars. They are blown out of the water by the bigger film studios who can shove their big-name stars in front of everyone. Look at Brad Pitt’s Oscars campaign this year. Flawless. Even down to his photos with ex-wife Jennifer Aniston. He’ll have had a great deal of backing. Smaller movies, less well-known actors won’t get that opportunity. Therefore, they don’t grab attention in the same way. The system is weighted towards a certain type of films and those films are, typically, not diverse. Those films don’t typically have female directors. So, stop saying it’s only about quality. Until we have a system that sees every film get a fair chance, diversity needs to be discussed.