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Arts and Entertainment

This Year's Academy Class Is Their Most Diverse Ever: 46% Women And 41% People Of Color

The red carpet at the 82th annual Academy Awards. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
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After taking heat over the #OscarsSoWhite backlash from earlier this year, the Academy promised to make changes "and not wait for the industry to catch up." On Wednesday, they unveiled the Academy class of 2016, extending an invitation to 683 individuals in their most diverse class ever.According to the Academy, the new class is 46% women and 41% people of color. If all invitations are accepted, the Academy would grow to 7,789 members, and their ranks would increase to 27% women (from 25%) and 11% people of color (from 8%).

"What we found is that, as much we tried to get the information out there, it wasn't penetrating in a way that we wanted it to," Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs told the L.A. Times. "So we've asked all our members to be the ambassadors and pay attention to men and women who have particular skill levels in their area of expertise and get them encouraged and tell us their names so that we can make sure and reach out and connect."

This year's class includes several big names, including Room Oscar-winner Brie Larson, frequently-shipped Star Wars: The Force Awakens co-stars Oscar Isaac and John Boyega, 007-hopeful Idris Elba, Taylor Swift's new boytoy Tom Hiddleston, Hermione Granger herself Emma Watson, "Burn Hollywood Burn" rapper Ice Cube, hipster cool-kid director Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night) and that-guy-who-beat-Sylvester Stallone-at-the-Oscars Mark Rylance.

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Arab-German director Lexi Alexander—who frequently rails against the overt whiteness and maleness of the movie industry on her Twitter account—was overcome by the news. She told the L.A. Times, "To be honest, I cried a few tears when I started to get congratulation tweets in Arabic. Although I'm aware of how under-represented we are, I sometimes forget how desperately Arabs who aren't in the film business wish for better stories about us."

Of the 683 invitees, 28 are Oscar winners (that doesn't automatically make you a member?), and 283 are international would-be members representing 59 countries.

In January, the Academy set a goal of doubling the number of women and people of color in their ranks by 2020. While the new class only barely moves the needle on making their ranks a little less overwhelmingly old, white and male, it's a start. "In the next four years, it's important to finalize the goal that we set," Isaacs told Variety. "The conversation is continuing. I think there is going to be a lot of positive energy that will pollinate and make more."

As is the case every year, there are always invitees that make people say, "They weren't already in the Academy?" This year's class includes token Old Chinese Guy James Hong, blaxploitation director Melvin Van Peebles (Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song), legendary Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami (Close-Up, Certified Copy), and the Wachowskis (The Matrix trilogy).

For this writer, there was a pang of excitement when two of his favorite filmmakers were among the invitees: Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien and mainland Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhangke.

Congrats to all invitees!

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