Nine new Arab film makers join Oscars Academy

Talent from Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen are among latest invitees to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Yemeni film producer and writer Khadija al-Salami, Egyptian actress Yousra, and Syrian director Talal Derki. AFP / Getty
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At least a further nine film professionals from the Arab world have been invited to join the ranks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the body which, among other things, is responsible for voting for the annual Oscar winners.

As the Academy continues its drive to diversify following campaigns such as #OscarsSoWhite – last year saw a record 928 new members admitted, including writer/directors Annmarie Jacir and Nadine Labaki among 12 from the Arab region – a further 842 new members from 59 countries have been invited this year.

Regionally, Labaki's Oscar-nominated Capernaum was a big winner once again this year. Cinematographer Christopher Aoun, production designer Hussein Baydoun (Baydoun also worked on another Oscar-nominated Lebanese film, Ziad Doueri's 2017 The Insult, and now joins existing member Doueri in the Academy), and writer Jihad Hojeily were all among the new intake. The film's French editor Laure Gardette was also invited.

Another of this year's Oscar nominees was also among the new invite list – Of Fathers and Sons director Talal Derki may not have managed to claim the Best Feature Documentary prize this year, but at least he'll have a say in who does next year.

Veteran Egyptian singer and actress Yousra, star of more than 50 films since she made her big screen debut in 1977's Fatah Tabhath Aan Al-Hob (A Girl Searching for Love) also joins the organisation, alongside fellow Egyptian, the producer/director Karim Amer, who is best known for producing Jehane Noujaim's The Square, the first Kickstarter-funded film to be nominated for an Oscar, and Egyptian filmmaker and screenwriter Amr Salama, director of Sheikh Jackson.

From Yemen, I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced director Khadija Al-Salami becomes the first Yemeni to join the Academy, following in the footsteps of her 2014 film, which was the first Yemeni film to be submitted for Oscars consideration.

Tunisian director Raja Amari rounds off this year's Arab intake to the Academy. Amari is best known for 2002's controversial Satin Rouge, which sees a widowed Tunisian mother transform her conservative life into that of a cabaret dancer.

The appointments from the Arab world form part of a growing wave of diversification within the Academy’s hallowed ranks. This year marked the first time female invitees made up half of the new intake, with 10 of the Academy's 18 branches inviting more women than men, taking the total female representation now to 32 per cent, up from 25 per cent in 2015.

Likewise, in 2015, people of colour made up just eight per cent of the membership. Following the latest intake, that figure has doubled to 16 per cent, with 29 per cent of 2019’s intake non-white.

Among the best-known faces to receive indications this year were Spider-Man actor Tom Holland, Lady Gaga - who was invited by both the Academy's actors and music branches following her Oscar-nominated turn in A Star is Born, and Captain Marvel and Crazy Rich Asians star Gemma Chan.