When it comes to opinions about increasing diversity among film critics, director Antoine Fuqua doesn’t appear to be moved.
While promoting his new film, The Equalizer 2 starring Denzel Washington, Fuqua told The Hollywood Reporter that diversity among film journalists is “not something on my mind.”
“I didn’t think about it, honestly, because I’ve always sat in a room with a mixture of people,” he told the outlet. “Maybe it’s something I should notice if it’s really affecting people or affecting me. I just do the work and if a white male or white female, or Hispanic male or female, or Chinese male or female has an opinion, then that’s their opinion. That’s what will live on. I’ll keep it moving.”
“I try not to think about that as much because, you know, I’ve had black people say some pretty ugly things, too,” he continued. “I’ve had white people say some ugly things. The world feels not even in a lot of ways. Sometimes the best comment I can make is work.”
To be fair to Fuqua, he does go on to say that he thinks it’s sometimes better “to have a black guy comment on a white movie and [vice versa], to take yourself out of the place that you’re comfortable in and comment on it from a different perspective.”
But it seems like he’s missing the point of why diversity in the press pool is important. It’s not specifically about black critics reviewing only black films, nor is it about black critics always saying something good about black films. It’s about black critics and other critics of color being given the chance to say anything at all. In short, it’s not about Fuqua; it’s about widening the scope of opportunities for other voices to have their say on the year’s films.
Several of Hollywood’s big players have been advocating for better, more diverse representation among journalists and film critics, such Brie Larson. During her acceptance speech for the Crystal Award for Excellence in Film during the Crystal+Lucy Awards in June, Larson cited sobering stats from the USC’s Annenberg Inclusivity Initiative’s recent report that revealed that the majority of Rotten Tomatoes’ reviews for 2017’s top grossing films were written by white men.
“This is a huge disconnect from the U.S. population of 30 percent white men, 30 percent white women, 20 percent men of color and 20 percent women of color,” she said according to The Hollywood Reporter. “…What I am saying is that if you make a movie that is a love letter to women of color, there is an insanely low chance a woman of color will have the chance to see your movie and review your movie…We need to be conscious of our bias and make sure that everyone is in the room.”
Larson also announced that the Sundance Film Festival and Toronto Film Festival were going to step up to the plate by ensuring that 20 percent of their credentialed critics included those from marginalized communities.
Sundance and TIFF are giving many critics big opportunites to break through a higher ceiling in the industry, and whether or not the critics write something positive or negative, their reviews are helping broaden the scope of what it means to be a film lover.
To be fair to Fuqua, it seems like he’s just looking at the issue from the innocuous standpoint of of a creator who knows that everyone will have something to say about his work, regardless of race. That’s true. But he also admits that diversity in film journalism is something he hasn’t thought about. Hopefully after his Hollywood Reporter interview, he will, since maybe, unbeknownst to him, some of his fans are also critics who can’t get their work seen to a wider audience because of race.