Bafta Awards 2020: Joaquin Phoenix praised for calling out ‘systemic racism’

Joaquin PhoenixImage copyright
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Joaquin Phoenix has received praise for using his Baftas speech to call out “systemic racism” in the film industry.

Phoenix collected the best actor award for The Joker on Sunday, and his comments followed an outcry about the all-white acting nominations line-up.

“I think that we send a very clear message to people of colour that you’re not welcome here,” he said.

Actress Viola Davis and director Lulu Wang, who made The Farewell, were among those to applaud him on Twitter.

Image Copyright BAFTA

Image Copyright BAFTA

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While no women were nominated for best director for the seventh year in a row, Wang was at the London ceremony after The Farewell was nominated for best film not in the English language.

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Davis, who won a Bafta award in 2017 for her role in Fences, thanked Phoenix for his “honesty, solidarity and courage”.

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Joaquin Phoenix’s Bafta speech in full

“I feel very honoured and privileged to be here tonight. The Baftas have already been very supportive of my career and I’m deeply appreciative. But I have to say that I also feel conflicted, because so many of my fellow actors that are deserving don’t have that same privilege.

“I think that we send a very clear message to people of colour that you’re not welcome here. I think that’s the message that we’re sending to people that have contributed so much to our medium and our industry and in ways that we benefit from.

“I don’t think anybody wants a handout or preferential treatment – although that’s what we give ourselves every year. People just want to be acknowledged, appreciated and respected for their work.

“This is not a self-righteous condemnation because I’m ashamed to say that I’m part of the problem. I have not done everything in my power to ensure that the sets I was on are inclusive.

“But I think it’s more than just having sets that are multi-cultural. We have to do really the hard work to truly understand systemic racism.

“I think it is the obligation of the people that have created and perpetuate and benefit from a system of oppression to be the ones that dismantle it. So that’s on us.”

Other figures from the film and TV industries were quick to applaud the actor for telling some hard “facts”.

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Alma Har’el, who directed 2019 film Honey Boy, tweeted: “Correct me if I’m wrong but this is the first time… In a long time… I see a white man uses the stage he’s given to say what we all need to hear.”

She added: “We mostly hear women speak up and this is encouraging and will help our work. Thank you Joaquin.”

Yvette Nicole Brown, known for starring in TV shows including Community, posted: “Tell the truth then, Joaquin!” followed by a series of hand-clap emojis.

Shameless and The Walking Dead writer LaToya Morgan added: “This is how you use your time platform. Well said, Joaquin. Well said.”

British stand-up comedian Tez Ilyas wrote: “Thank you Joaquin for articulating how many people feel and aren’t able to express.”

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Image caption

Phoenix shared a conversation with the Duke of Cambridge at the ceremony

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Phoenix, who had previously been nominated for The Master, Gladiator and Walk the Line, is favourite to win best actor at the Oscars next Sunday.

Writer and broadcaster Hanna Ines Flint said she now wants to see him “put his words into action”.

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The Duke of Cambridge, who is president of Bafta, also spoke at the ceremony about the need for change, noting that the organisation “takes this issue seriously”.

He said: “In 2020, and not for the first time in the last few years, we find ourselves talking again about the need to do more to ensure diversity in the sector and in the awards process – that simply cannot be right in this day and age.”

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