Last Sunday’s premiere of HBO’s Project Greenlight stirred up conversation after Matt Damon tried to speak on behalf of diversity in filmmaking.
His comment was made to Effie Brown, the only minority in the room, and a producer who is on the crew of Project Greenlight. “When we talk about diversity, you do it in the casting of the movie, not the casting of the show”, said Damon, a quote that is clearly not translated to the world we live in today.
I do not believe Damon was in any way trying to speak in regards to every movie ever made; rather, he spoke to defend the competition of Project Greenlight.
In 1939, Hattie McDaniel won the first Oscar any African American person had ever received as Best Supporting Actress in “Gone With the Wind,” her role being Mammy. The stories that are told of minorities in film are often too true to stereotyping, which allows the stereotype to be supported in our everyday lives.
Fast forward to today, only 18 other African American entertainers have been awarded an Oscar for a performance, directing, or writing. If the diversity is not in the crew, where is it? The roles that are obtained through scripts written by a majority of white men, only portrays the white point of view.
It is hard to understand the point of view of a different race or culture if it is not your own, and the point of diversity in film is to accurately include all people of color to show how lives are lived in our society everyday-- not just by white people.
There is theory of film in society that is hard to test: does film influence our society or does our society influence our film? There is no way each race is accurately depicted in each film in the way that we can see in our own lives.
Though there is also no general way to widely represent a race accurately, as each person is their own individual with many complexities surrounding them. The issue is generalizing, something that films can easily portray in a negative way-causing stigma on the filmmakers.
An easy fix to this problem is of course, diversity in production. In an industry where 94 percent of CEOs are white men, there is no question why producers like Effie Brown feel this resistance to people of color in the industry.
Academy Award-Winning director John Korty spoke about diversity with his movie, “Farewell to Manzanar,” a film depicting events inJapanese internment camps. “A lot of films think they are portraying minorities in their best aspect. The way they want it to be seen is objective. Writers struggle with how to portray a minority person, because they try to achieve a balance,” said Korty.
The “white-man’s” point of view may be the only one that is correct in this industry for now, though with people of color (and even women) becoming Senior Executives, it may slowly improve.
When small voices are heard over the roar of oppression, especially in the media, it makes it easier to show who these people truly are, rather than the few and far between that are depicted onscreen. I would love to see a minority win an Academy Award under Best Writing for Original Screenplay, and perhaps the cast may reflect the perspective film lacks today.