Oscars organizers invite women, minorities in diversity push

LOS ANGELES - Almost half the people invited to join the organisation that bestows the Oscars this year are women and almost as many people of colour, the body announced on Wednesday in a bid to honour its vow to push for more diversity.

The record 683 invitees include rising young stars such as John Boyega of "Star Wars" and "Harry Potter" actress Emma Watson, Swedish Oscar winner Alicia Vikander and musician Mary J. Blige, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said in a statement.

Of the class of 2016 -- which also includes Indian-Canadian director Deepa Mehta, Belgian-Kurdish filmmaker Sahim Omar Kalifa and Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami -- 283 are identified as international members representing 59 countries.

Forty-six per cent of new invitees are female and 41 per cent ethnic minorities, the Academy said, adding that the roster boasts 28 Oscar winners and 98 nominees. The youngest invitee is 24 and the oldest 91.

The list follows scathing criticism about a lack of diversity in the Academy's ranks and among Oscar winners.

All 20 nominees in the main acting categories at this year's Oscars were white for the second year running, prompting calls to boycott the glitzy event and an angry social media backlash under the hashtag #OscarsSowhite.

"This class continues our long-term commitment to welcoming extraordinary talent reflective of those working in film today," Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs said in a statement. "We encourage the larger creative community to open its doors wider, and create opportunities for anyone interested in working in this incredible and storied industry."

If most of those invited agree to join this year, the Academy's demographic membership will begin to change from being mainly white, male and for the most part over the age of 60.

But it will take time to fundamentally diversify the organisation's 6,000-plus voting members.

Male membership, currently at 75 per cent, would slip to 73 per cent if all this year's invitees agree to join, the Academy said.

White members, who make up 92 per cent, would thin to 89 per cent.

The Academy's board of governors has vowed to double the number of female and ethnic minority members by 2020.

The average age of its members is 63, the organisation told AFP earlier this year.

Each candidate must be put forward by two members who believe he or she has "demonstrated exceptional achievement in the field of theatrical motion pictures."

Oscar nominees may also be considered.

Each member typically joins one of the Academy's 17 branches that award the coveted golden statuettes every year.

Beginning this year, voting status for all new members will last just 10 years, to be renewed only if they have been active in movies during that time.