Yesterday, the Oscar nominations were released and while we celebrate that for the first time in history two women (and one woman of color!) have been nominated in the Best Director category, we couldn’t help but notice the lack of Latinx representation.
This year, only five Latinx folks were nominated in four categories: Best Documentary Feature, Achievement in Sound, Best Screenplay, and Best Picture. Maite Alberdi and Marcela Santibáñez, the Chilean director and producer for The Mole Agent. Carlos Cortés Navarrete and Jaime Baksht, two Mexican remixer audio engineers for The Sound of Metal. And Shaka King, the American Panamanian director and writer of one of the most powerful films of this year, Judas and the Black Messiah.
These artists truly deserve recognition and we’re so excited to see the Oscars acknowledge Latinx talent behind the camera. If he wins, Shaka King would be the first Afro-Latinx director to win for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. This historic first is definitely one to celebrate and serves as a reminder the Afro-Latinx community deserves more recognition, especially within our own community.
While Latinxs make up about 18% of the U.S. population, we only got about 4% of the Oscar nominations this year (we did the math…). This is despite the Latinx community making up the majority of moviegoers (pre-covid) what with us comprising 24% of “frequent” moviegoers.
Five people can never represent the diversity of Latinx communities and this grouping is ok, especially by Hollywood award season standards. But it’s not enough. Where is the indigenous part of our community? La Llorona was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best “Foreign-Language” Film – the Oscars could’ve at least done the same. The truth is, even within this group of amazing Latinx artists we cannot ignore that white and light-skinned Latinx creators are overrepresented compared to Afro-Latinx ones. According to a Pew Research study, “one-quarter of all U.S. Latinos self-identify as Afro-Latino, Afro-Caribbean or of African descent with roots in Latin America.” The prevalence of white or light-skinned Latinx artists over Black or Indigenous Latinx ones is not new. Whether it’s award shows, politics, or the corporate world, it’s clear who is given opportunities and who isn’t.
The thing is – the marketplace should not support this racism. Recently the research group McKinsey put out a report saying, “By addressing the persistent racial inequities, the industry could reap an additional $10 billion in annual revenues.” Black and Indigenous Latinx consumer power is huge. However, within the small number of Latinx stories that are picked up by major studios or nominated for awards, too many ignore or exclude those from Afro-Latinx and Indigenous communities. We Latinxs are not monolithic and we cannot allow our representation in film and television to continue to propagate this false narrative.