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Tip sheet: Oscars improve on some areas of diversity, but there’s more work to do

January 31, 2017

The 2016 #OscarsSoWhite backlash seems to have resonated with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, as actors and directors of color were more well-represented in the 2017 Oscar nominations.

No U.S. fiction films directed by women were nominated, said documentary film producer Giovanna Chesler, director of the Film and Video Studies Program at George Mason University.

"Hollywood must address the incredible bias women face as working directors in this industry. In our program [at George Mason] where half of our students are women and non-gender conforming, I remain concerned that the tide is not moving as it should," Chesler said.

The documentary category, which includes “13thby Ava DuVernay, with cinematography by Mason’s own Hans Charles, reflects an awareness and "woke-ness" in the academy's documentary voting community, Chesler said.

“‘13th’ is a deeply important and powerful film that takes an in-depth look at the U.S. prison system and its racial inequality,” said Lisa Thrasher, professor of film producing and business in Mason’s Film and Video Studies Program.

The U.S. film industry remains an industry that is overwhelmingly made up of white, heterosexual men, Thrasher said.

With that historically one-dimensional backdrop, Thrasher, an independent film producer who has focused her portfolio of films on financing, supporting and producing LGBTQI and women’s stories and filmmakers, said she watched the Oscar nominations with great anticipation and hope for “a more inclusive slice of our world.”

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Giovanna Chesler is a professor and the director of the Film and Video Studies Program at George Mason University. She is also a working director and producer in the film industry. She can be reached at

Lisa Thrasher is a film producer and a professor of film producing and business in George Mason University’s Film and Video Studies program. She can be reached at

About George Mason

George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls 35,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity and commitment to accessibility.