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MPAA’s Chris Dodd on Oscar Diversity Issue: ‘We Must Do a Better Job’

MPAA chairman Chris Dodd said  the industry “must do a better job of cultivating and recognizing diversity” in the wake of criticism of the Oscars and the industry as a whole over the lack of African-Americans, Latinos and Asians among the list of nominees.

As the chief of the trade association representing the movie studios, Dodd is among the highest-profile industry figures to weigh in on the awards controversy.

“Our community tells a wide array of diverse stories, and we are very proud of that. But, we can always push ourselves to be better, and we must,” Dodd said in comments in Washington on Wednesday at a MPAA event sponsored along with the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council.

“We must do a better job of cultivating and recognizing diversity,” he said. “The film community is better served when a wider array of voices is celebrated.”

Dodd said that he shares the disappointment expressed by Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs about this year’s list of nominees.

“To echo her comments, while we celebrate the achievements of this year’s nominees, the absence of diversity is undeniable and should initiate a healthy and productive debate about what can be done to make progress.”

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He also said that he spoke to Isaacs on Wednesday and “expressed my support for efforts she outlined to expedite changes in Academy membership recruitment to ensure greater inclusion. It’s long overdue.”

On Monday, Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith posted separate messages saying that they would not attend the Feb. 28 ceremony because of the lack of diversity among the nominees. Lee was not just critical of the Academy’s choices, but said that the “real battle” was “in the executive office of the Hollywood studios and TV and cable networks. This is where the gate keepers decide what gets made and what gets jettisoned to ‘turnaround’ or scrap heap.”

Isaacs issued a statement on Monday evening, saying she was “heartbroken and frustrated” over the lack of diversity among the nominees. She said the Academy would conduct a review of membership recruitment.

Dodd established a diversity and multicultural outreach program in 2013 to partner on events and screenings with groups like the  Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council, the American Black Film Festival, the National Assn. of Latino Independent Producers, and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.

The D.C. event featured a conversation with Tichina Arnold of Starz’s “Survivor’s Remorse” moderated by John Gibson, the MPAA’s advisor for diversity and multicultural outreach.

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