The presence of Black actors in major motion picture roles is not just a controversy that plagues Hollywood. Unfortunately Black actors across the pond are seeing the same challenges when it comes to lack of diversity onscreen and behind the camera—and they have had enough.
Last week during the Césars, also known as the “French Oscars,” actress Aïssa Maïga called out the lack of diversity in the room, even urging directors and producers to think about Black actors for more than just stereotypical roles.
Maïga added that often times she can count on one hand the number of non-White actors she sees at events and meetings involving the Césars.
“We survived whitewashing, blackface, tons of dealer roles, housekeepers with a Bwana accent, we survived the roles of terrorists, all the roles of hypersexualized girls,” she said onstage, according to English translation. “We’re not going to leave French cinema alone. ”
“We are a family. We say everything, right? All of you who are not impacted by issues related to invisibility, stereotypes or the issue of skin color…the good news is that it will not happen without you. Think inclusion,” Maïga urged. “What is played in French cinema does not only concern our very privileged environment, it concerns all of society.”
Maïga’s speech, which quickly went viral on social media, comes after 30 of France’s actors came out publicly slamming the French film industry, accusing it of confining Black actors along with those originating from North Africa and Asia to stereotypical bit parts.
In an open letter on the eve of the Cesars they blasted the “invisibility” of minorities both in front of the camera and behind it—similar to the #OscarsSoWhite movement that has called attention to the Academy’s lack of diversity since 2015.
The letter also addressed the hypocrisy of an industry that invited Spike Lee to head the jury at the Cannes Film Festival this year while pushing Black creators to the margins in their own home country.
The show itself, held last week, was met with even more controversy, when Roman Polanski won several top awards for his film, An Officer and a Spy. The 86-year-old, who did not attend the French ceremony held inside Paris’ Salle Pleyel, pleaded guilty in 1977 to having sex with a 13-year-old girl. Polanski fled the country before he could be sentenced and has been a fugitive ever sence.
Host Florence Foresti shared her thoughts on the wins, posting the word “Disgusted” on her Instagram Story.
Get it together, Cesars!