Actor Joaquin Phoenix has called out “systemic racism” in the film industry in a searing awards acceptance speech in London.
As he won the Leading Actor award on Sunday for his role in Joker at the Bafta Film Awards 2020, the 45-year-old won a round of applause at the Royal Albert Hall from an audience which included members of the British royal family.
The event was already heavily criticised for lacking diversity in the nominations.
As he accepted the award, in which all five nominees were white, Phoenix said he felt honoured but, at the same time, conflicted.
Joaquin Phoenix’s Bafta speech in full
“I feel very honoured and privileged to be here tonight. The Baftas have already been very supportive of my career and I’m deeply appreciative. But I have to say that I also feel conflicted, because so many of my fellow actors that are deserving don’t have that same privilege.
“I think that we send a very clear message to people of colour that you’re not welcome here. I think that’s the message that we’re sending to people that have contributed so much to our medium and our industry and in ways that we benefit from.
“I don’t think anybody wants a handout or preferential treatment – although that’s what we give ourselves every year. People just want to be acknowledged, appreciated and respected for their work.
“This is not a self-righteous condemnation 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 I was on are inclusive.
“But I think it’s more than just having sets that are multi-cultural. We have to do really the hard work to truly understand systemic racism.
“I think it is the obligation of the people that have created and perpetuate and benefit from a system of oppression to be the ones that dismantle it. So that’s on us.”