Brie Larson has announced that film festivals like Sundance and TIFF will be addressing the lack of diversity in film criticism by allotting “at least 20 percent of their top-level press passes” to under-represented critics, according to Deadline. TIFF will also allot an additional 20 percent of spots to under-represented critics from around the world. The Oscar-winning actress made the announcement at the Women in Film Crystal + Lucy Awards on Wednesday night, noting that the Sundance and TIFF allotments were pegged to a recent study conducted by U.S.C. Annenberg, which analyzed reviews posted on Rotten Tomatoes and found that 76 percent of them were written by men, while 82 percent overall were written by white critics.
At the awards ceremony, Larson dedicated her acceptance speech for the Crystal Award for Excellence in Film to breaking down the findings of the Annenberg study, saying criticism should be more reflective of the wider film audience. “Am I saying that I hate white dudes? No, Im not,” she said, per Deadline. “What I am saying is if you make a movie that is a love letter to a woman of color, there is an insanely low chance that a woman of color will have a chance to see your movie and review your movie.”
She continued. “It really sucks that reviews matter, but reviews matter,” she said. “We are expanding to make films that reflect the people who buy movie tickets . . . I do not need a 40-year-old white dude to tell me what didnt work for him about A Wrinkle in Time. It wasnt made for him.”
Larson then issued calls to action to publicists, asking them to widen the pool of critics who get invited to junkets and press lines. She noted that if three more under-represented male critics, three more white female critics, and three more under-represented female critics reviewed each of the years top 100 films, “The average critic pool would match the U.S. population in just five years.”
She also called upon gatekeepers to let more diverse critics into the fray: “Female and under-represented critics cant review what they dont see. Many are denied accreditation or access to press screenings. Please make sure that these invites and credentials find their way to more under-represented journalists and critics, many of whom are freelancers.”
Larson was one of the first actresses to weigh in on the study when it was published a few days ago, tweeting a link to it on Monday and using the hashtag #InclusionCrisis.
The study sparked a much-needed conversation about the homogeneity of film criticism, and how a lack of diversity impacts not only how a film performs at the box office, but also how its intellectually perceived and placed in the pop-culture canon. However, as BuzzFeeds critic and culture writer Alison Willmore has pointed out, the studys methodology for attaining data was questionable. Rotten Tomatoes isnt necessarily the most accurate barometer of modern film criticism, nor is it entirely helpful to ask the aggregation site—which links out to critics, but does not recruit them itself—to address the issue. Instead, the onus should fall on outlets who hire critics. Regardless, now that institutions like TIFF and Sundance are finding concrete ways to address the issue, perhaps well begin to see real and lasting change on this front.
Get Vanity Fairs HWD NewsletterSign up for essential industry and award news from Hollywood.Full ScreenPhotos:Cover Shoot: The Indefatigable Brie LarsonYohana DestaYohana Desta is a Hollywood writer for VanityFair.com.