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Joaquin Phoenix criticizes the 2020 BAFTAs: We have to “truly understand systemic racism”

on February 03, 2020, 10:36am

On Sunday, Joaquin Phoenix was crowned Best Actor at the 2020 BAFTA Awards for his role in Joker. However, it was his acceptance speech that reigned supreme as the most-talked about moment of the British ceremony.

Although Phoenix expressed gratitude for the evening’s accolade, most of his time at the podium was spent criticizing the blatant lack of diversity among BAFTA’s nominee pool. This year, the BAFTAs nominated zero people of color, resulting in the unfortunate #BAFTAsSoWhite tag similar to the one given to the Oscars.

“The BAFTAs have already been very supportive of my career and I’m deeply appreciative. But I have to say I also feel conflicted because so many of my fellow actors that are deserving don’t have that same privilege,” Phoenix began his speech. He continued on, talking specifically about those “deserving” colleagues who were shut out from the awards show that night.


“I think that we send a very clear message to people of color that you’re not welcome here,” added Phoenix. “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.”

The 47-year-old actor made it a point to admit his own faults before calling on his fellow nominees to take action and do better when it comes to creating a more level playing field within the film industry. Phoenix said,

“This is not a self righteous condemnation, because I’m ashamed to say that I’m part of the problem. I have not done everything in my power to ensure that the sets I work on are inclusive. but I think it’s more than just having sets that are multicultural. I think that we have to really do the hard work to truly understand systemic racism.

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.”

Phoenix wasn’t the first to call out the BAFTA Awards’ all-white candidacy. Immediately after the nominations were announced in early January, the chair of the film committee, Marc Samuelson, described it as an “infuriating lack of diversity.”

Meanwhile, Cynthia Erivo, whose Harriet Tubman biopic Harriet didn’t receive a single nod, was asked to perform during the BAFTAs last night. She declined, however, saying, “I work hard and every single person of color who is working in these films this year has worked really hard, and there are many of them who deserve to be celebrated.”

Find video and text of Phoenix’s full BAFTAs speech below.

“I feel very honored and privileged to be here tonight. The Baftas have already been very supportive of my career and I’m deeply appreciative. But I have to say that I also feel conflicted, because so many of 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 – although that’s what we give ourselves every year. People just want to be acknowledged, appreciated and respected for their work.

This is not a self-righteous condemnation because I’m ashamed to say that I’m part of the problem. I have not done everything in my power to ensure that the sets I was on are inclusive.

But I think it’s more than just having sets that are multi-cultural. We have to do really the hard work to truly understand systemic racism.

I think 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.”


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