Oscar documentary nods `so white, so male-oriented`

Washington : With just few days before the annual Academy Awards ceremony, a new study has revealed that white, male documentary filmmakers dominate the Oscar recognition.

American University School of Communication’s Center for Media & Social Impact (CMSI) announced new diversity and inclusion research targeting the Academy Award category Best Documentary Feature. The researchers found trends that reflect a persistent lack of diversity in the genre and the industry.

The study, ‘Journey to the Academy Awards: An Investigation of Oscar-Shortlisted and Nominated Documentaries (2014-2016),’ uncovered that 89 percent of film directors shortlisted for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature have been white and 77 percent have been male over the past three years.

Lead researcher Caty Borum Chattoo and team systematically gathered, archived, categorised and coded data for 45 total films across 2014, 2015 and 2016 along the road to the Academy Awards. A total of 56 formally-credited directors were examined for this analysis, as several films have more than one credited director.

“It’s an amazing moment to make, watch and celebrate documentary films, which are such an important part of our cultural landscape, reflecting stories crucial to our democracy and entertaining us at the same time,” said Borum Chattoo. “There may be a myth that the diversity challenges facing other Academy Award categories – and the entertainment business in general – are not observed in independent documentary films, but based on our research there is clearly a long way to go.”

The study found that over the past three years, Oscar shortlist recognition in the Best Documentary Feature category consistently favors white documentary directors and Academy Award recognition of female documentary makers remains consistently rare.

Documentaries that work at the intersection of investigative journalism and film, addressing pressing social issues and possibly influencing them, regularly receive recognition by the Academy in the shortlist process.

It was also found that film festivals are crucial to these top filmmakers not only because of the exposure to audiences, critics, media and distributors, but also because of their connection to major awards. Film festivals and online streaming platforms dominate Oscar-shortlisted and nominated films’ distribution plans. (ANI)