One of just five black nominees for this year’s Oscars says more films like hers must be championed by the Academy if it’s really committed to change.
Karen Toliver, executive vice president of creative for Sony Pictures Animation, says Hair Love, about a black dad trying to help his daughter do her hair – brings something new to the Oscars.
“It’s made by people of colour and it’s about things that are very important to us and there’s not a lot of those movies being nominated,” she told Sky News.
“I’m hoping the more they see the response to this film then more will get championed, more will be made and we’ll see more.”
Toliver said the cartoon, which is up for best animated short, was very personal and something of a passion project for her and its director Matthew A Cherry.
“I have a 13 and a 15-year-old boy and I think about them being black and going out in to the world, and the stereotypes that come around black men is really scary to me as I think about a mother trying to have them out in the world,” she explained.
“Having those images on screen I think is really important.”
This year the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite began trending again after just one non-white actor was recognised – south Londoner Cynthia Erivo who got a best actress nod for Harriet.
Many have bemoaned the fact that notable performances such as Jamie Foxx in Just Mercy, Eddie Murphy’s My Name is Dolemite and Jennifer Lopez’s Hustlers have been entirely overlooked by the Oscars.
The Farewell director Lulu Wang and her leading actress Awkwafina are also among those snubbed by the Academy.
Wang thinks ultimately the membership of the organisation is the problem.
“Depending on who the members are they’re going to be watching different films,” the movie-maker explained.
“Different stories are going to resonate with them, and what they deem to be excellent film or excellent directing is different based on your demographic.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by film critic Hanna Ines Flint who cites Tarantino’s ninth film – which is one of this year’s front-runners – as an example of how the Oscars reflect a membership still made up of mainly older, white men.
“We’ve kind of regressed a bit,” she said.
“Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood is a story about two white men in their fifties bemoaning a changing culture that makes them feel irrelevant.”
“I think that’s very telling the fact that that’s done so well and it’s representative of probably most of the people in the Academy, that were making movies in the sixties and seventies, when these guys were making movies.”
The 92nd Academy Awards – which will be shown on Sky Cinema and Now TV from 10pm on Sunday – reflects something of an old Hollywood, its nominees dominated by veteran actors like 79-year-old Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, Sir Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Bryce, Renee Zellweger likely to win Best Actress for playing Judy Garland and even Laura Dern nominated for Supporting Actress in Marriage Story some 28 years since her first Oscar nod.
Yet in a post Weinstein climate, pressure for change in the industry seems unprecedented. Calls for the Academy to diversify and reflect more female film makers and more people of colour in the films it champions, seem only to get louder.
After the Baftas were dominated by a message of diversity – with Joaquin Phoenix’s impassioned speech calling out “systemic racism” in the industry, calls to reform the Academy resonate particularly with a younger generation of film makers and indeed younger audiences who have high expectations of the tone of this year’s ceremony, and indeed its winners.