Joaquin Phoenix gave a powerful speech about “systematic racism” in Hollywood as he accepted the Best Actor prize at the British Academy Film Awards (BAFTAs) on Sunday.
The 45-year-old scooped one of the night’s top honours at the ceremony for his stellar performance in Todd Phillips’ Joker, and used his appearance onstage at London’s Royal Albert Hall to highlight the lack of diversity at the 2020 BAFTAs, for which no people of colour were nominated for acting categories.
“I feel conflicted because so many of my fellow actors that are deserving don’t have that same privilege,” Joaquin began. “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,” he continued, adding that he wants people 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,” he stated, and confessed to the star-studded audience that he had previously not done “everything in my power” to make sure the film sets he worked on were inclusive.
“We have to do 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,” he concluded to wild applause.
Prince William, who serves as the President of BAFTA, also addressed the contentious issue while awarding the BAFTA Fellowship to Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy.
“We find ourselves talking again about the need to do more to address diversity in the sector. That cannot be right in this day and age,” he shared. “BAFTA take this issue seriously, and following this year’s nominations, have launched a full and thorough review.”