Thanks to his leading performance as Arthur Fleck in Todd Phillips‘ Joker (2019), Joaquin Phoenix took home yet another award during the 73rd British Academy Film Awards (or BAFTAs) on Sunday night at the Royal Albert Hall in London, England.
Though the 45-year-old said he felt “very honoured” and “privileged” to be acknowledged and repeatedly supported by the British Academy, he admitted he felt “conflicted” because of the lack of diversity and inclusivity in not just this year’s BAFTA nominations, but in the history of the awards shows overall.
“I feel conflicted because so many of my fellow actors that are deserving don’t have that same privilege,” began Phoenix in his acceptance speech. “I think we send a very clear message to people of colour that ‘You’re not welcome here,'” he added.
Without explicitly saying so, the much-beloved entertainer called to the #BAFTASSoWhite trend, which went viral after the mostly-caucasian BAFTA nominees were announced in January. With the hashtag, thousands criticized the British charity for being unwelcoming to people of colour.
“That’s a message that we are sending to people that have contributed to so much to our medium and our industry, and in ways that we benefit from,” said Phoenix.
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The actor continued: “I don’t think anybody wants a handout or preferential treatment — although that’s what we give ourselves every year — I think that people just want to be acknowledged, appreciated and respected for their work.”
While he went off against the BAFTAs, Phoenix admitted that he too was a “part of the problem” in continuously allowing racial exclusion to happen within Hollywood.
“This is not a self-righteous condemnation,” he said, “because I’m ashamed to say that I’m part of the problem. I have not done everything in my power to ensure that the sets that I work on are inclusive,” he continued.
“But I think it’s more than just having sets that our multicultural,” added Phoenix. “I think that we have to really do the hard work to truly understand systemic racism.”
Before almost walking away without his newly acquired award, the Joker star concluded with a call-to-action towards his fellow entertainers and filmmakers for inclusion and diversity in the industry. He said:
“I think that it is the obligation of the people that have created and perpetuate and benefit from a system of oppression to be the ones that to dismantle it… so that’s on us.”
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Phoenix earned himself a roar of applause from the packed-out venue.
Whether or not they enjoyed Joker, many took to Twitter following the annual ceremony and praised Phoenix for using his acceptance speech to call out “systemic racism.”
Here’s what some Twitter users had to say:
On the organization’s official YouTube page, the BAFTAs described Phoenix’s speech as “powerful”.