British-Palestinian filmmaker Farah Nabulsi and Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania are among nearly 400 film industry professionals who have been invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Nabulsi was recognised for her work on The Present and Nightmare of Gaza, Ben Hania for her direction on The Man Who Sold His Skin and Beauty and the Dogs.
These are people who have “distinguished themselves by their contributions to theatrical motion pictures”, according to the Oscars body. A total of 395 artists and executives were invited to join the Academy, about half of the previous year, it was announced on Thursday.
Membership selection decisions are based on professional qualifications, with “representation, inclusion and equity remaining a priority”, as part of the Academy Aperture 2025, an ongoing initiative to address institutionalised inequity within the organisation.
The 2021 invitees are made up of 46 per cent women, 39 per cent underrepresented racial communities and 53 per cent international, with the chosen hailing from 49 countries outside the US. Among them are 89 Oscar nominees and 25 winners.
Fellow Mena artists on the list are Ossama Bawardi (The Present and Haneen), who works between Palestine and Jordan, and Iraqi-Dutch filmmaker Mohamed Al Daradji (The Journey and Sons of Babylon).
They join big Hollywood names such as Robert Pattinson (Tenet, The Lighthouse), Andra Day (The United States vs Billie Holiday, Cars 3) and Steven Yeun (Minari, Burning). Janet Jackson, HER, Henry Golding, Hugh Bonneville, Laverne Cox and Issa Rae are also on the list.
Three Bollywood celebrities also appear: Vidya Balan, Ekta Kapoor and Shobha Kapoor. Actress Balan was recognised for performances in Tumhari Sulu and Kahaani, while TV and film producer and director Ekta Kapoor was invited for her work on Dream Girl and Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai. Ekta’s mother, Shobha, who is also a producer, was honoured for Udta Punjab and The Dirty Picture.
Eight individuals were invited to join the Academy by several branches, and will have to select one branch to join upon accepting the membership. Those are: Ben Hania, who was chosen in the directors and writers categories, for The Man Who Sold His Skin; Leslie Odom Jr, actors and music for One Night in Miami ...; Craig Brewer, directors and writers for Hustle & Flow; Lee Isaac Chung, directors and writers for Minari; Emerald Fennell, directors and writers for Promising Young Woman; Shaka King, directors and writers for Judas and the Black Messiah; Alexander Nanau, directors and documentary for Collective; and Florian Zeller, directors and writers for The Father.
In 2020, 819 professionals were invited to become Academy members. Among them were at least 15 names from the Mena region, including Lebanese composer Khaled Mouzanar, Palestinian filmmaker Mai Masri and Tunisian director Meryam Joobeur.
In May, the Academy announced it would be reducing the number of invitees. “To enable steady future growth and to ensure the necessary infrastructure, staff resources and environment to support all Academy members, the number invited to membership [in 2021] was limited to roughly half that of recent years,” the organisation said.
Today, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has more than 10,000 accomplished artists, filmmakers and executives from across the world among its members.
For the full list of 2021 invitees, click here.
On Wednesday, the Academy also announced a number of rule changes for the 94th awards. Among the most notable is a revision to the eligibility criteria for the original score category. Previously, a score had to comprise a minimum of 60 per cent of a film to be eligible for the award. That number has been decreased to 35 per cent.
In another change to the music category, films can no longer submit more than five songs for the Best Original Song award.
The 94th Academy Awards ceremony is set to take place at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles, on Sunday, March 27, 2022.