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Al Sharpton calls out Oscars 'whiteness' over Selma snub

SCENE FROM THE FILM: David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King

HIS NAME may be more closely associated with deaths at the hands of police officers, but longstanding US activist, the Rev Al Sharpton, has called an emergency meeting after a biopic about Martin Luther King biopic was ‘snubbed’ by the Oscars.

Critics were left stunned that Selma was nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Song, but failed to be recognised in any other category.

Its director Ava Duvernay and British actor David Oyelowo, who plays the civil rights icon, missed out on any individual recognition.

In an exclusive interview with The Voice, Sharpton, who previously set up a taskforce to deal with the lack of diversity in Hollywood, particularly at the most senior level, following the publication of racially-charged emails between top Sony executives, said the development was “indicative of racial exclusion”.

He told The Voice: “The leaked Sony emails were indicative of the racial exclusion of blacks in terms of being empowered in Hollywood. I sat down with the chairman [Amy Pascal] to discuss the fact that there are no blacks in top positions at any major movie studio in Hollywood; no blacks who can greenlight a deal.

“And now the Academy Awards – whose members are 93 per cent white male – has no black nominee in a major role or as best director? This is racial exclusion. We are still the entertainment, but have none of the power and that’s what I want to investigate and why I called this emergency meeting.”

His organisation, the National Action Network (NAN) formed a taskforce to advise Sharpton as he engages in dialogue with Pascal.

But at an emergency meeting this week, the group will discuss possible action around the Oscars.

Sharpton added: “The arts influences people and informs our culture. We cannot have the arts be used to marginalise and minimalise what black people are about. How do you have a black President and a black attorney general and you can’t have a black nominee in a major role at the Oscars? And no black people with power in Hollywood? It’s unbelievable.”

In one email, executives warned that Denzel Washington’s recent film, The Equaliser, would not do well overseas because its star was a black actor.

In another, Sony Pictures co-chairman Amy Pascal was involved in an email exchange with producer Scott Rudin making jokes that US President Barack Obama only liked black films.

After the emails were made public by hackers, Pascal apologised for her “insensitive and inappropriate” remarks and reached out to Sharpton.

The pair held a 90-minute meeting at a New York hotel and agreed to set up a working group to deal with racial bias in the film industry.

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