‘Selma’ Actor to Headline London Film Fest’s ‘Black Star’ Diversity Forum

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The conversation over the lack of racial diversity in the film industry is headed to the U.K, as Selma actor David Oyelowo is slated to be the keynote speaker at the BFI London Film Festival’s headline industry event, the Black Star Symposium.

The event will examine so-called “color-blind” casting, the struggles black actors in the U.S. and U.K. face, and will explore solutions to the issue. The symposium, which will begin on October 6, is the first in a series of major events from BFI’s Black Star season celebrating black talent on screen.

Oyelowo has two films in the London Film Festival lineup: A United Kingdom and Queen of Katwe. The actor-producer became the de facto face of black Hollywood in 2014 after his award-winning turn as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King jr. in Selma, though many felt he was unfairly snubbed when he failed to earn an acting nomination at that year’s Academy Awards.

During the symposium, BFI creative director Heather Stewart is expected to release the first phase of new research about the representation of black actors in British films.

“We want to make the data available – as both a tool and a mirror – for everyone who is in a position to say ‘yes’ to new creativity and new opportunities,” Stewart said, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “It will help shape what funders, policy makers, producers, directors and writers think about when they are making decisions in a world where audiences hope for so much more than they are offered.”

Oyelowo says he’s excited to see action being taken to advance diversity in film.

“I’m really hopeful we’re about to segue from talking about diversity to actually doing it,” he said.

The BFI diversity confab comes on the heels of a blistering new report from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, which found that Hollywood is “the epicenter of cultural inequality.”

“While the voices calling for change have escalated in number and volume, there is little evidence that this has transformed the movies that we see and the people hired to create them. Our reports demonstrate that the problems are pervasive and systemic,” said Dr. Stacy L. Smith, one of the study’s authors.


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