LONDON-born director Asif Kapadia has said he feels “honoured” after becoming one of the newest members of the prestigious Academy Awards.
Kapadia, who grew up in east London, is one of several acclaimed Asians in the film world who have been invited to join the organisation which bestows the Oscars in LA each year.
The multiple award-winning filmmaker joins 682 others selected for the body’s “Class of 2016”, including Slumdog Millionaire actress Freida Pinto and veteran Indian actress Sharmila Tagore in a bid to increase diversity.
The bold move follows criticism at the lack of ethnic minorities at this year’s ceremony, which was held in February.
All 20 stars in the main acting categories at the Oscars were white for the second year running, prompting calls to boycott the glitzy event and an angry social media backlash under the Twitter
If all those invited take up their membership, the percentage of males would drop from 75 per cent to 73 per cent, and the numbers of white members will drop from 92 per cent to 89 per cent. The 283 new international members represent 59 countries.
Currently, more than 6,000 professionals in the industry form the academy’s voting board, with an average age of 63. Responding to the news, Kapadia, who picked up an Oscar for his documentary about musician Amy Winehouse earlier this year, told Eastern Eye: “I’m really honoured to be a member of the Academy.”
Other prominent stars who have been invited to become members include Indian-Canadian director Deepa Mehta, who made Midnight’s Children and Water, Pixar animator Sanjay Bakshi, known for his work on The Good Dinosaur, producer Anish Savjani, and animator Sanjay Patel.
Almost half of those selected to join the board are women and nearly as many are black and Asian. Rising young stars John Boyega of Star Wars and Harry Potter actress Emma Watson are part of the the record number of invitees, as well as Swedish Oscar winner Alicia Vikander and musician Mary J. Blige.
The new invitees are 46 per cent female and 41 per cent ethnic minorities, the Academy said, adding that the roster boasts 28 Oscar winners and 98 nominees. The youngest prospective member is 24 and the oldest 91.
“This class continues our long-term commitment to welcoming extraordinary talent reflective of those working in film today,” Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs said in a statement.
“We encourage the larger creative community to open its doors wider, and create opportunities for anyone interested in working in this incredible and storied industry.”
The Academy’s board of governors has vowed to double the number of female and ethnic minority members in the next four years.
Beginning in 2016, voting status for all new members will last just 10 years, to be renewed only if they have been active in movies during that time.