Wednesday 17 January 2018

Films more diverse but still room for growth, says Oscar winner Whitaker

Forest Whitaker won a best actor Oscar for his portrayal of Idi Amin in The Last King Of Scotland
Forest Whitaker won a best actor Oscar for his portrayal of Idi Amin in The Last King Of Scotland

Actor Forest Whitaker has said "the tapestry of films has become more diverse" in the lead-up to next month's Academy Awards.

But The Last King Of Scotland star added that there is "still a lot of room for growth" when you look at diversity "behind the camera".

Speaking to CNBC at the World Economics Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday, he said: "C ertainly the tapestry of films has become more diverse, but I think you also have to look at behind the camera ... it's becoming more diverse but there's still a lot of room for growth.

"You have to look at the types of stories that are being told.

"Whether they're dealing with gender issues, whether they're dealing with sexuality issues, whether they're dealing with class issues, so there's still so much to be dealt with.

"But there has been progress made, definitely."

His comments came weeks before the prestigious awards ceremony, which was last year slammed for the lack of racial diversity among chosen prize winners, leading to the social media protest campaign Oscars So White.

Whitaker, who won a best actor Oscar for his portrayal of the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the 2006 film, added that he hoped to find "common ground" with incoming US President Donald Trump on the subject.

"I would hope that the next president would look at all of us constituents and understand a sense of wanting to represent them, wanting to take care of them, allowing them their voice," he said.

"C learly I'm someone who doesn't believe in intolerance, who believes in inclusiveness ... so we'll have to find some common ground to make sure that if any of those things are infringed on, we'll stand up to make sure that the right thing is done in our country and that it will cascade itself around the world."

Joined by stars such as Shakira, Matt Damon and George and Amal Clooney at the Davos event, Whitaker pushed the importance of using celebrity influence to advocate global issues to governments.

Speaking about his own foundation, which educates children in war-torn areas of Africa and prevents them from getting involved in conflicts, he said it was "crucial" that such initiatives become adopted "at policy level".

Singer Shakira also spoke at the event and discussed the importance of access to education with former UK prime minister Gordon Brown.

She said: " I hope my kids can be agents of change, architects of their own destiny and of our common destiny.

"We have to be committed to offer equal opportunities to the poor for a prosperous, more stable world."

Both Whitaker and Shakira received Crystal Awards at the event for their humanitarian work.

Press Association

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