Representation of Minorities as Corporate Social Responsibility in Indie Films


Back in 2015 Femi Oguns, a UK talent agent, warned the industry: “There is a storm coming.” He was addressing the decision-makers who were not accepting the changes in the world and hence were not changing the industry towards ethnical diversity on screen and behind the lenses.

And the storm did come and did begin that year. The #OscarSoWhite theme has swept the Olympus of the film industry. The next year that same hashtag was brought back by the Oscars’ choice of nominees and force the Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs to take decisive action in addressing ethnic and gender composition of voting members. Then in 2017, the #MeeToo movement happened. It changed the world of cinema and made it a better place by removing the mogul and kingmaker Harvey Weinstein from the arena. After #MeeToo the #TimesUp appeared on the surface and banned the tolerance of sexual harassment in the industry.

Such huge changes towards intolerance of the old rules brought the prosperity of female roles and directors in the industry this year. It also gave a new possibility to voice the injustice to the ethnical minorities carrying the #BlackLivesMatter movement on the scene. This sentiment showed to the world that changes do come as Femi Oguns warned us. The new rhetoric is now leading the industry: the films must be diverse in their cast and crew composition, the topics used must be varied in terms of race, ethnicity and sexual preferences of the characters, and generally, the industry must revise its values and foundations. Red Rock Entertainment reviews the greatest changes in the industry yearly, and they report that due to all these movements the viewers were able to receive such great pictures as Dear White People, 9 to 5, Windows, and many others.

Why do these changes concern big production companies like Walt Disney, Time Warner, Red Rock Entertainment or DNA films? Well, the answer should be obvious – they have influence. Top ranking films in the world are produced by the corporations of the industry. Hence they significantly change the way a viewer sees the world. The way they shape viewers’ conscience and the concept of the world around is the main reason why they must follow the latest equality and inclusiveness trends. For example, when Netflix fired Kevin Spacey from the extremely popular House of Cards, the whole world has crossed him off the charts.

Now, what has corporate social responsibility have to do with the representation of minorities? In simple terms, corporate social responsibility for a corporation means understanding the impact it has on all aspects of society: from politics and economics to human relations and public opinion. The UK in the face of BFI has already stepped on the path of changes and introduced the model of Three Ticks. Such a strategy guarantees that films produced and popularised in the UK will demonstrate exemplary diversity practices. Since the model was designed and introduced in 2015, the UK filmmaking world has significantly enlarged the number of films with gender, age, sexual orientation, race, disability, and socio-economic topics, actors, and crews. Now people of all kinds can get a job position and the hiring is based on professional qualities only. Owing to such a trend in films, the world has seen Black Panther, Get Out, The Magnificent Seven, Ocean’s 8, Moonlight, Hidden Figures, and many others.

However, even with such a big move toward equality in the film world, the viewers are still not satisfied. The talks walking around the world insist on the necessity of greater inclusion, and that underrepresentation of particular social groups is still on the table. For example, an American survey YouGov has said that about only 37% respondents believed that women had enough representation in the cinema while the numbers for black representation (35%), the Latino people (23%), Asians (21%), and LGBTQIA (18%). The numbers, though higher than last year, demonstrate vividly that the masses do require greater accountability on such a painful and politically inconvenient matter.

The bottom line

While corporations do make some steps into the diversity pool (Disney has released Marvel’s franchise Guardians of the Galaxy with a terrific message, or the Star Wars legendary reboot was vividly pushed towards inclusion), there are still many holes to patch in this coverage. The indie filmmakers are doing their best to deliver the content the viewers are asking for, yet these are corporations that can make the change here owing to their influential viewership and high budgets at hand.

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