Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who was recently re-elected president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts, has always been a trailblazer and a calm and reasonable voice easy to hear over a roaring crowd.
As she enters her fourth term as president and her 24th year as a governor representing the Public Relations Branch, the “controversy” over Nate Parker—who was found innocent of rape allegations—is rearing its ugly head, just as the positive Oscar buzz around his film “The Birth of a Nation” begins.
In the United States the judicial system advocates “innocent until proven guilty,” so this attempted tarnish, being thrown over Parker—who was (again) found innocent of rape allegations—feels like what it is, which is a modern day attempt by a lynch mob to “destroy” Parker’s character.
I am a bold woman. I know what I see, and I stand behind the statement.
As reported by Vulture, “when approached by TMZ at an airport, Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs insisted that it is important for people to judge the film for themselves. “With the issue of the movie, the important thing is for people to see it, and enjoy the film, be impressed by the film,” Isaacs said. “I think that is what is very important. People need to see this movie.” During her tenure as Academy president, Isaacs has made a significant push for greater diversity within the Academy in response to years of predominantly white Oscar nominees. Talking to TMZ, she referred to the rape allegations against Parker as “one issue, that’s his personal issue,” and she said it is important to discuss the film as a whole, although she herself has not seen it. “I know just by the conversation that has gone on since Sundance that it’s clearly a movie that filmgoers should go and see,” Isaacs said. “My belief is that people need to see the movie and judge the movie.”
The positive changes that have happened during her four years as president have been nothing short of magnificent.
She understands that storytellers have power and when used correctly they shine light on injustice, motivate, educate and help make permanent change.
To level the playing field, you must level the playing field. It’s logical. At the beginning of this year, the Academy’s 6,261 voting members were approximately 92 percent white and 75 percent male. Boone Isaacs, who was backed by the board of governors, vowed that the organization would increase its number of women and diverse members by 2020. But to meet those numbers, the Academy is having to significantly increase the number of new members it invites each year.
Now the idea of inclusion has made 683 steps forward: 46 percent invited are female and 41 percent are “people of color.” The class of 2016 includes 28 Oscar winners and 98 nominees, who collectively represent 109 nominations. Of the new invitees, 283 are considered international members, representing 59 countries.
In this spirit, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences handed out a record 683 invitations to new members that included Nate Parker, Michael B. Jordan, Anthony Anderson, Chadwick Boseman, Harold Perrineau, director Amma Asante (“Belle”), Cheryl Dunye (“Watermelon Woman”), Ryan Coogler (“Creed”) and producers DeVon Franklin, Debra Martin Chase, Paul E. Hall, and under the public relations branch, uber gifted executive Cassandra O. Butcher.
Two African-American artists have also been added to the newly elected 2016-17 Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences: Oscar winner Roger Ross Williams (Documentary Branch) and Sharen K. Davis (Costume Designers Branch).
The Academy’s 17 branches are each represented by three governors, who may serve up to three consecutive three-year terms. The Board of Governors sets the Academy’s strategic vision, preserves the organization’s financial health and assures the fulfillment of its mission.
Those also elected to the board, along with Williams and Davis, for the first time are Laura Dern (Actors Branch), Steven Spielberg (Directors Branch), Laura Karpman (Music Branch) and Kevin Collier (Sound Branch).
The Academy Awards presentation will air live on ABC on Oscar Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, and the 89th Academy Awards will be held at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood and Highland Center in Hollywood, and will be televised live by the ABC Television Network.