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Could Dunkirk, a Film About White Guys Fighting Nazis, Pass the Oscars’ New Inclusion Requirements?

Could Dunkirk, a Film About White Guys Fighting Nazis, Pass the Oscars’ New Inclusion Requirements?

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Could a movie like Dunkirk, a story of white, heterosexual men fighting literal Nazis, pass the Oscars’ new inclusion rules?

In a word, yes.

Easily, in fact. A close reading of the rules shows that they would have had almost no impact on the last decade of Best Picture races — and wouldn’t even necessarily impact stories populated almost entirely with white men.

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The Academy announced Tuesday that effective at the 2025 Oscars ceremony, films will need to meet new diversity requirements in order to qualify for a Best Picture nomination. The full standards are below.

Films will need to meet two of four standards covering: A. On-Screen Representation, Themes and Narratives. B. Creative Leadership and Project Teams C. Industry Access and Opportunities D. Audience Development. The rules, which are below, get very specific about the number of people of different underrepresented groups who need to be included.

But the standards, when you read them, are very easy to meet. Looking over the last decade of Best Picture winners, I couldn’t find any that seem like they wouldn’t qualify. The underrepresented groups include women, members of several racial or ethnic groups, people who are LGBTQ+, and “people with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing.”

I tried to think of a single Best Picture nominee that might not pass muster, and zeroed in on Christopher Nolan’s 2017 film Dunkirk, which was nominated for Best Picture. Because it is largely a story of white, male, heterosexual-identifying British soldiers and sailors — and accordingly has a very white and male cast — I thought it might have trouble qualifying under the new rules.

But no.

Reading the rules closely, it turns out that even a hypothetical film with an all-white, all-male cast and even an all-white, all-male crew could qualify by meeting the eligibility requirements of Standard C: Industry Access and Opportunities and D. Audience Development. Remember, films must meet two out of four of the following standards to be eligible.

In other words, a movie about white guys on Wall Street or vikings at sea — which also had a disturbing lack of diversity in its departments — could qualify by offering paid apprentice and internship opportunities to members of underrepresented groups and employing members of underrepresented groups in marketing, publicity, and distribution, for example.

Now, none of the know-it-all philosopher kings who will write editorials and Reddit screeds complaining about fairness about this are going to read any of these details. They’re just going to assume that any Black/gay/female director who wins an Oscar going forward got it because of “quotas.” These new standards may well feed into that dumb narrative without making much actual difference in the way Hollywood does business.

Here are the new standards, from the Academy, effective at the 2025 Oscars ceremony that will cover 2024 films:

For the 96th Oscars (2024), a film must meet TWO out of FOUR of the following standards to be deemed eligible:

STANDARD A:  ON-SCREEN REPRESENTATION, THEMES AND NARRATIVES
To achieve Standard A, the film must meet ONE of the following criteria:

A1. Lead or significant supporting actors

At least one of the lead actors or significant supporting actors is from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group.
• Asian
• Hispanic/Latinx
• Black/African American
• Indigenous/Native American/Alaskan Native
• Middle Eastern/North African
• Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
• Other underrepresented race or ethnicity

A2. General ensemble cast

At least 30% of all actors in secondary and more minor roles are from at least two of the following underrepresented groups:
• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

A3. Main storyline/subject matter

The main storyline(s), theme or narrative of the film is centered on an underrepresented group(s).
• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

STANDARD B: CREATIVE LEADERSHIP AND PROJECT TEAM
To achieve Standard B, the film must meet ONE of the criteria below:

B1. Creative leadership and department heads

At least two of the following creative leadership positions and department heads—Casting Director, Cinematographer, Composer, Costume Designer, Director, Editor, Hairstylist, Makeup Artist, Producer, Production Designer, Set Decorator, Sound, VFX Supervisor, Writer—are from the following underrepresented groups:
• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

At least one of those positions must belong to the following underrepresented racial or ethnic group:
• Asian
• Hispanic/Latinx
• Black/African American
• Indigenous/Native American/Alaskan Native
• Middle Eastern/North African
• Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
• Other underrepresented race or ethnicity

B2. Other key roles

At least six other crew/team and technical positions (excluding Production Assistants) are from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group. These positions include but are not limited to First AD, Gaffer, Script Supervisor, etc.

B3. Overall crew composition
At least 30% of the film’s crew is from the following underrepresented groups:
• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

STANDARD C:  INDUSTRY ACCESS AND OPPORTUNITIES
To achieve Standard C, the film must meet BOTH criteria below:

C1. Paid apprenticeship and internship opportunities

The film’s distribution or financing company has paid apprenticeships or internships that are from the following underrepresented groups and satisfy the criteria below:
• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

The major studios/distributors are required to have substantive, ongoing paid apprenticeships/internships inclusive of underrepresented groups (must also include racial or ethnic groups) in most of the following departments: production/development, physical production, post-production, music, VFX, acquisitions, business affairs, distribution, marketing and publicity.

The mini-major or independent studios/distributors must have a minimum of two apprentices/interns from the above underrepresented groups (at least one from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group) in at least one of the following departments: production/development, physical production, post-production, music, VFX, acquisitions, business affairs, distribution, marketing and publicity.

C2. Training opportunities and skills development (crew)

The film’s production, distribution and/or financing company offers training and/or work opportunities for below-the-line skill development to people from the following underrepresented groups:
• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing
STANDARD D: AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT
To achieve Standard D, the film must meet the criterion below:

D1. Representation in marketing, publicity, and distribution

The studio and/or film company has multiple in-house senior executives from among the following underrepresented groups (must include individuals from underrepresented racial or ethnic groups) on their marketing, publicity, and/or distribution teams.
• Women
• Racial or ethnic group

  • Asian
  • Hispanic/Latinx
  • Black/African American
  • Indigenous/Native American/Alaskan Native
  • Middle Eastern/North African
  • Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
  • ​Other underrepresented race or ethnicity

• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

 

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