Tunde Kelani, Others Join the Expanding Voting Pool of the Academy

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Vanessa Obioha

Filmmaker and cinematographer Tunde Kelani is among the few Nigerians who were invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences this year.

Last year marked the first time Nigerian creatives were asked to join the Academy following an outcry on its lack of diversity in 2015. By January 2016, the Academy announced that it was going to make radical changes to its voting requirements, recruiting process and governing structure, with an aim toward increasing the diversity of its membership.

Since then, the Academy has been racing to meet its commitment to double female and minority membership by the end of 2020. In 2016, the Academy added 683 members, 774 members in 2017, and in 2018, sent out

invitations to 928 new members from 59 countries including Nigeria, India, South Korea and Algeria. The members cut across different sectors in the film industry; from documentary to TV and music.

The inclusion of other countries was part of the changes effected in the Academy which include replacing the traditional process of inviting members based on their achievement with an ambitious, global campaign to identify and recruit qualified new members who represent greater diversity. Thus, in the history of Nigeria film industry, filmmaker Femi Odugbemi, actress Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, and producers Ngozi and Simon Onwurah became the first Nigerians to become voting members of the Academy.

Now that pool has expanded this year as Kelani who is selected in the Director category based on his works ‘The Lion and the Jewel’ and ‘The Narrow Path’, will become a voting member of the Academy alongside Nigerian-British actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Suicide Squad,Trumbo) filmmaker and writer Chinonye Chukwu (Clemency, alaskaLand), and Director of International Original Films for Netflix, Funa Maduka.

Although, the Academy sent out only 842 invitations to film industry professionals in 59 countries, a 9.3 per cent decrease from last year, there is however a significant increase in female and minority membership. 50 per cent of the new members invited are made up of women while 29 per cent are people of colour. If all invitations are accepted, the Academy will be inching closer to its target. Other popular Hollywood A-listers that were invited include singer and actress Lady Gaga and Letitia Wright

The 2020 Oscars is scheduled for February 9, 2020.