The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has set out the requirements that will be required for all films nominated for the Oscars for Best Picture starting in 2024. The list of new rules consists of just four items, and in order to qualify for the Best Picture nomination, the picture must match at least two of them.
What is required? At least one of the lead actors or a significant supporting actor must belong to an underrepresented racial or ethical group. At least 30% of secondary roles should be given to LGBT people, racial or ethnic groups, women or people with disabilities. The same requirements apply to the plot of the film, its production and promotion, i.e. if the director wants his film to qualify for the Oscar, then already at the application stage he will be required to provide an appropriate script.
The key message of the film should revolve around the topic of racial discrimination or issues of minorities and people with disabilities. If the director does not have a suitable plot, he can compensate for this lack by the composition of the film crew, which should include specialists from one way or another disadvantaged segments of the population. The latter, in particular, include women. Moreover, it will not be possible to limit ourselves to gay boys bringing coffee. The list of the academy clearly states: all the “infringed” should occupy key, leading positions.
This has been going on for a long time. The Harvey Weinstein case, the #metoo and BLM movements have prepared and fertilized the ground.
What do we care
The question is, what do we care? The Oscar is an American film award, and in the Best Foreign Film nomination, which Russia could claim from time to time, nothing of the kind is required.
However, to deny that the new rules will affect us is to bury our heads in the sand. Most of the films in our cinemas are Hollywood productions. And the Oscars are the most clear and understandable reference point for the viewer all over the world. This is a guarantee of quality, a proven product that will definitely not disappoint. Starting from 2024, the whole world will expect exactly this from the Oscars – sharp stories around LGBT discourse and the fight against harassment of all stripes. And as soon as it becomes the hallmark of the Oscar winners, all other films will inevitably catch up to their standards and the theme of the oppression of the disadvantaged will become on a par with the eternal stories about heroes saving the world.
Moreover, she will replace them. The image of the bearer of key values will rapidly shift into the racial and LGBT spectrum. Batmans, Die Hards and 007s will get their gay counterparts, and the cost of black actors will skyrocket. And people will believe it.
So maybe that’s good? For so many years, the offended silently swallowed grievances. Now their problems will be in the center of world attention and sympathy. Against this background, women and LGBT people have bright prospects.
The trouble is, we’ve been through all this before. Such interference in the life of art did not lead to anything good (although it had an impact on the masses). The history of cinema remembers very well the times when ideology demanded that an obligatory correct enemy be presented on the screen. Our film experts once calculated that from 1946 to 1950 the number of negative characters of Western origin in Soviet cinema doubled compared to 1920-1930. The West responded in kind. This led to the mass mutual hysteria of the Cold War, but did little to enrich the lists of world masterpieces.
The imposition of racial and LGBT standards is the same lack of freedom. You can not dictate anything to the artist – this is the axiom of any real art.
Russian filmmakers do not yet have a common opinion about the Oscar innovations. For example, Alexander Kott, director of the film “Brest Fortress”, is not inclined to panic. He believes that this is not our business at all: “We should not be worried about this, and it is somehow pointless to react. We [исходим] from a different understanding of what is happening. And the rules are always changing. What happened when the first African-American woman received an Oscar (Hattie McDaniel, Gone with the Wind, 1940 – Vedomosti)? It was a complete shift in stereotypes, it’s like launching a rocket into space! Now there are new rules. And there is nothing special about them. “Green Book” (“Oscar” for the best film in 2018, a drama about the friendship of a black gay pianist and a white Irish driver. – “Vedomosti”) is a wonderful film that fits all new criteria.”
Some see the new rules as a manifestation of modern humanism. In particular, Natalya Merkulova, the director of the film Intimate Places, supports the inclusion of people with disabilities in the list of Oscar requirements: “In general, I support the initiatives of the American Film Academy. I would especially like to highlight the topic of people with disabilities – now they can go to acting schools and they will have a chance to get a job in the cinema. It’s really cool that a person without legs can do the same thing as a person with legs. This is especially important for Russia, where people with disabilities are not socialized.”
Others, on the contrary, do not hide the irony, interpreting the new rules as a guide to action – something like a manual “How to stop being afraid and finally get an Oscar.” “I was excited to learn about the new rules for Oscar contenders,” jokes Mikhail Segal, director of the soon-to-be-released film Deeper! – If earlier the criteria were blurred and academicians operated with unclear categories like talent, now the first step towards normal rules has been taken: you can take them into account and fulfill them. I would like our Oscar selectors to clearly write down exactly what needs to be done.”
However, most filmmakers are still in some bewilderment. After all, we are talking about issues that are difficult to resolve administratively. “In my opinion, the declared rules should work in reverse order,” says director Alexei Uchitel. – There is a director, there is a script according to which the movie is being shot. If you initially adjust the film to certain requirements, this is unlikely to lead to valuable results. The point about the composition of the film crew is also not very clear to the Teacher: “For example, sexual orientation – and if a person does not discuss it openly? Are they going to conduct a special survey of the film crew?”
Arseniy Gonchukov, director, screenwriter, author of the book “How to make a movie without money” is also perplexed: “This wave, of course, will subside at some point. But already now we are watching Hollywood films, where all the proportions declared by the new rules are observed. However, what is offered now is beyond common sense. They demand not only racial, but also sexual diversity, and this is an intimate sphere. The funniest point, of course, is the demand for gender, sexual and racial diversity among crew members. How will it be provided? Will they put transgender make-up artists and dressers in the shops? In general, any obligation in the field of art is definitely bad. The decision of the academy will certainly provoke the decline of cinema in 10-15 years.
No less categorical is the documentary filmmaker Marina Razbezhkina. She tends to consider what is happening as a real “twilight of the gods.” “Incredible nonsense. As soon as they begin to dictate to an artist what, where and when to shoot, art ends,” Razbezhkina laments. – It remains only to enjoy watching old Hollywood films, where there are no rules. We can say that Hollywood cinema will now be completely closed.
But modern Hollywood itself is striving with all its might into a dystopia – that same brave new world where everyone is equally artificially happy. We know how it ends.