Tag Archives: Oscar diversity

PRI.org: Ang Lee and George Takei signed the letter, but here’s who wrote it

Award-winning author and filmmaker Arthur Dong. Photo by Lia Chang
Award-winning author and filmmaker Arthur Dong. Photo by Lia Chang

PRI.org: Ang Lee and George Takei signed the letter, but here’s who wrote it

“The heavily circulated letter was signed by 25 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, including director Ang Lee, actors Sandra Oh and George Takei. It was a protest of the tone-deaf Asian jokes at this year’s Oscars ceremony — but it wasn’t meant to be an open letter.

“It was a private message to our friends and our colleagues in the organization,” says Freida Lee Mock, the chair of the Academy’s Documentary Executive Committee, who penned the first draft.

But none of the signatories seem too bothered that it was leaked to the press, first reported by Variety and then rebounding around the Internet earlier this week. It wasn’t until the letter became public that CEO Dawn Hudson issued a swift apology. And it wasn’t until George Takei called the apology “patronizing” and “a bland, corporate response” that Hudson scheduled a future meeting with these 25 members to show them that the Academy leaders were serious about these issues.

This was the first time in recent history that a grassroots collaboration like this amongst Asian Americans has happened within the Academy. The organization is divided into branches based on craft — for actors, directors, executives, etc. — and for the most part, members work within their lanes. Long-time Academy members Mock and documentarian Arthur Dong have been involved in numerous campaigns for documentary films. They successfully lobbied for the documentary branch of the Academy and Mock was voted the first governor. Dong joined her in a leadership position soon after. In the ’90s, when there was an attempt to get rid of the Academy Award for Documentary Short, they helped rally people like Steven Spielberg to get the decision unanimously overturned.

But they’ve never had to band together by ethnicity, because before this year’s Oscars ceremony, there was no need.

Moments after Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs took the stage to speak about the importance of diversity at this year’s ceremony, Oscars host Chris Rock brought out three Asian American children to make a child labor joke. Later in the night, presenter Sasha Baron Cohen delighted in cracking an Asian penis joke.”

“It hit me in gut,” says Dong, now a film professor at Loyola Marymount University. He was watching the Oscars with his 11-year-old son. “I just thought, ‘This is our organization. We understand the process and how decisions are made, so how could this have happened?'”

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Variety: Ang Lee, Other Asian Oscar Winners Protest ‘Racist Stereotypes’ to Academy

Ang Lee, Other Asian Oscar Winners Protest ‘Racist Stereotypes’ to Academy

UPDATED: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences apologized on Tuesday for the Asian jokes on the Feb. 28 Oscar telecast, after receiving a protest letter signed by 25 AMPAS members, including Ang Lee.

Ang Lee. Photo by Lia Chang
Ang Lee. Photo by Lia Chang

An Academy spokesperson issued the statement, “The Academy appreciates the concerns stated, and regrets that any aspect of the Oscar telecast was offensive. We are committed to doing our best to ensure that material in future shows be more culturally sensitive.” 

The letter asked for “concrete steps” to ensure that future Oscarcasts will avoid the “tone-deaf approach” to Asians that was exhibited last month. The protest was delivered in advance of today’s board meeting, where the Oscar show and issues of diversity are undoubtedly on the agenda. The missive was sent to the board, AMPAS president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, CEO Dawn Hudson, and ceremony producers Reginald Hudlin and David Hill.

Award-winning author and filmmaker Arthur Dong. Photo by Lia Chang
Award-winning author and filmmaker Arthur Dong. Photo by Lia Chang

Here is the letter:

March 9, 2016
Cheryl Boone Isaacs, President
Dawn Hudson, CEO
Members of the Board of Governors
Reginald Hudlin and David Hill, Oscars® Producers
Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences
8949 Wilshire Boulevard
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Dear Cheryl, Dawn, Members of the Board of Governors, Reginald and David:

We are writing as Academy members of Asian descent to express our complete surprise and
disappointment with the targeting of Asians at the 88th Oscars telecast and its perpetuation of racist stereotypes.

In light of criticism over #OscarsSoWhite, we were hopeful that the telecast would provide the Academy a way forward and the chance to present a spectacular example of inclusion and diversity.

Instead, the Oscars show was marred by a tone-deaf approach to its portrayal of Asians.
We’d like to know how such tasteless and offensive skits could have happened and what process you have in place to preclude such unconscious or outright bias and racism toward any group in future Oscars telecasts.

We look forward to hearing from you about this matter and about the concrete steps to ensure that all people are portrayed with dignity and respect.

We are proud that the Oscars reach several hundred million people around the world of whom 60% are Asians and potential moviegoers.

Sincerely,
Don Hall, Sound Branch, John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation, Academy Governor, 18 years
Freida Lee Mock, Documentary Branch, Academy Award@ winner, Academy Governor, 6 years
Arthur Dong, Documentary Branch, Academy Award@ nominee, Academy Governor, 4 years
Ang Lee, Directors Branch, Two-time Academy Award@ winner
Chris Tashima, Shorts and Feature Animation Branch, Academy Award@ winner
Christine Choy, Documentary Branch, Academy Award@ nominee
David Magdael, Public Relations Branch
France Nuyen, Actors Branch
George Takei, Actors Branch
Janet Yang, Producers Branch
Jessica Yu, Documentary Branch, Academy Award winner@
Jodi Long, Actors Branch
Laura Kim, Public Relations Branch
Marcus Hu, Executives Branch
Maysie Hoy, Film Editors Branch
Nancy Kwan, Actors Branch
Peter Kwong, Actors Branch
Renee Tajima-Peña, Documentary Branch, Academy Award® nominee
Rithy Panh, Documentary Branch, Academy Award® nominee
Ruby Yang, Documentary Branch, Academy Award@ winner
Sandra Oh, Actors Branch
Steven Okazaki, Documentary Branch, Academy Award® winner
Teddy Zee, Executives Branch
William Hoy, Film Editors Branch
Yung Chang, Documentary Branch

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