Reviews Matter, but Does Diversity?

by Danielle Owens on April 16, 2020

In order to increase participation in film criticism amongst younger artists, one could start by looking into the pipeline of how film critics gain employment and education. One place to start would be in classrooms, ranging from elementary to college, where videos and films are accompanied with educational lessons. Given that film is a visual medium that can unite people from different racial and economic backgrounds to experience a piece of art that blends both sight and sound, the makeup of its content should be just as diverse.

Unfortunately, few movies today reflect the world we live in. According to “Critic’s Choice?: Gender and Race/Ethnicity of Film Reviewers Across 100 Top Films of 2017”, a study conducted by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California, the racial makeup of film critics is even less diverse than the films they review. Most film critics are white males, with people of color making up just a small percentage of the demographic. When you consider the power the mostly white and male critics have when reviewing films by people of color, the power of their words—whether negative or positive—becomes heightened.

A way to involve younger journalists and writers is scrutinizing the number of women of color who are engaged in film clubs at grade schools and film schools. Creating a program for young critics that offers internships, free exclusive screenings, educational resources about film criticism, and mentorship programs partnered with film critics associations could further enhance a platform for inclusion.

As a film buff, I love reading books and reviews about movies I haven’t heard of before, but a vast amount of published work about essential films to study are authored by white male critics, leaving other perspectives overlooked. Offering younger students resources on how to become a film critic or study cinema as a craft would help promote different voices. Fostering a film critics society that is more diverse is crucial to engaging young journalists and critics.