Graham Norton has used his opening monologue at the BAFTAs to call out the lack of diversity in the award nominations.
Opening the show with his trademark humour, Norton launched straight in, telling the audience that 2019 would “be remembered as the year when white men finally broke through.” The quip was greeted with laughter from the audience.
But Norton didn’t stop there. “A bit of a chat about the old white, male privilege,” he said, acknowledging the #BAFTAsSoWhite criticism that has plagued the awards since the nominations were announced in early January. “And you can sort of see why. I mean eleven nominations for Joker which is essentially the story of a white man who makes himself even whiter.”
The comments follow criticism that no people of colour were acknowledged in the acting categories. This was despite the popularity of Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers, Awkwafina in The Farewell and Lupita Nyong’o in Us. Audiences also criticised the lack of gender diversity in the Director category with Greta Gerwig snubbed from the category despite the popularity of her film, Little Women.
However Norton was not the only person to call out the lack of diversity at the awards show. Joaquin Phoenix won Leading Actor for his performance in Joker and used his acceptance speech to call for recognition of the film industry’s problem with systemic racism.
Speaking of his win, Phoenix said, “I also feel conflicted that my fellow actors that are deserving don’t have that same privilege. I think that we send a very clear message to people of colour that you’re not welcome here. I think that’s the message that we’re sending to people that have contributed so much to our medium and our industry and in ways that we benefit from.”
“I don’t think anybody wants a handout or preferential treatment. I think people just want to be acknowledged and appreciated and respected for their work.”
Phoenix then preempted the argument that awards should be based on merit rather than political correctness by saying, “I don’t think anybody wants a handout or preferential treatment. I think people just want to be acknowledged and appreciated and respected for their work.”
He went on to say that he felt he was part of the problem himself, “I have not done everything in my power to ensure that the sets that I work on are inclusive. I think that it is the obligation of the people that have created and perpetuate and benefit from a system of oppression to be the ones that dismantle it so that’s on us.”
"I think that it is the obligation of the people that have created and perpetuate and benefit from a system of oppression to be the ones that dismantle it so that’s on us.”
The hard-hitting speech was followed by huge applause from the audience who had been noticeably silent throughout.
The South Korean film, Parasite continued its award season success, winning two of the four categories in which it was nominated. Han Jin Won and Bong Joon Ho won the BAFTA for Original Screenplay and the film also took out the award for Film Not in the English Language.
Zoe Victoria is a freelance writer. You can follow her on Twitter @Zoe__V