BAFTA’s New Policies – and the Death of the 7th Art
What is “Art”? What does this short, three-lettered word really mean, and how do we determine what is defined by it? According to some people it’s any form of representation, while for the Oxford English dictionary is the application of human creativity and imagination; but according to Picasso, one of the most acclaimed artistic icons of the 20th century, “art” is no more than a lie, that makes us realize the truth. The truth is that there is no universal definition of art, and this abstract concept is as immortal as it is subjective, capable of assuming any shape. Yet, for the British Academy Film and Television Awards, it has recently acquired a new, unconventional, alternative meaning: for the BAFTAs, art means diversity. The independent organization announced its innovative regulations, some strict, 1984-ish protocols which wink to the ridiculous. BAFTAs have published a list of diversity standards to be applied to the eligibility criteria for next year’s film contenders, hoping that ‘the whole industry can adopt them as a shared language for understanding diversity’. In order to meet the standards, productions will either need to be conceived and realised by creative practitioners targeted as “diverse”, or to represent on screen themes and narratives dealing with diversity. ‘This significant change’, as their website proudly states, demonstrates BAFTA’s commitment to diversity in the long term, and the intention to take a leading role in this cause. Indeed, this is a drastic change. An organization which is supposed to have no preferences nor prejudices, is now clearly outlining its bias towards specific tendencies. From now on, one day a film is considered worthy, and the following day it’s not good anymore, it becomes rotten as expired milk, for the superficial reason that it doesn’t contain the message they want to see. Under this new regime, Citizen Kane, Pulp Fiction, Taxi Driver or The Godfather, for example, would not be taken into consideration by the BAFTAs. And in this hypocritical, self-cathartic, and sad attempt to be progressive, these standards end up contradicting the BAFTAs’ mission statement, ‘to bring the very best work in film, games and television to public attention’. The very best work, is now only the very best diverse work. ‘By announcing this change now, we’re giving notice to films not yet in production, as well as putting measures in place through our events and initiatives to help productions meet the Diversity Standards’. The BAFTAs are like a spoiled kid opening presents on Christmas’ day, explicitly requesting what they want, and not accepting what the industry will bring them. They are warning the industry, blackmailing artists by exploiting their social impact. Inexorably, the audience goes to watch films with nominations, trusting a tasteful selection from experts. And yet, if you want to receive a nomination from now on, you need to abide, and accept to convey their message. A potential innovative masterpiece, that does not mirror BAFTAs’ political and sociological statement, from now on does not deserve to be made, and to be recognized as a good film. A disagreement, or a simple manifestation of true diversity from these policies, will end up in the disqualification of the film. Thus, how can an organization establish what is the best film of the year, bearing in mind that it’s not employing art as part of their selection criteria anymore? Maybe the nomenclature of their awards should undergo a change as well, and be properly renamed “Best Diverse Film”, or perhaps “Best Film Which Fulfils the New Bafta Regulations”. Surely, the winner is not the best artistic expression… not anymore. With changes like this, with a silent publication on a website, with deep and necessary consequences in the film industry, cinema loses its connotation as the 7th art, and slowly gains the one of social commentator. Art, once immortal, is now becoming undistinguishable with present-day matters. Cinema turns from an artistic expression to a social tabloid where, if it doesn’t conform to the news’ relevant topics and tries to be fresh, and thus truly different, it is discarded. No more freedom of expression, means no more art. This wave of diversity will end up crashing on the shore of art, making films that share the same, conformed narratives and look colorless and equal, just like sand grains.