BFI admits it is ‘systemically racist’ amid diversity probe
“Four Lions” director Faisal A Qureshi claimed the BFI’s head of admissions ignored his complaint of discrimination, despite acknowledging the group’s internal racism.
The British Film Institute (BFI) addresses the double standard of racism and diversity.
A spokesman for the UK-based production organization reportedly admitted to Faisal A Qureshi (Leaving Neverland, The Four Lions) last year that the institute was “systemically racist” while apologizing for its handling of the filmmaker’s discrimination complaint.
In a private meeting, the BFI’s head of admissions, Melanie Hoyes, reportedly told Qureshi that filmmakers of color had had “traumatic experiences” with the BFI, comparing the institute to the ill-fated Titanic. Deadline.
Originally, Qureshi reportedly issued a formal apology to the BFI more than two years ago after lodging a formal complaint with a representative of the BFI Network over a funding meeting in March 2019. Qureshi claimed that a former BFI employee informed him that he was not eligible for the funding due. on hiatus from directing and quoted Qureshi as being “very honest” about race on social media.
Per Deadline, a senior BFI manager emailed colleagues in April 2022 saying Qureshi’s claims that he had experienced “racially insensitive behaviour” remained unfounded, but believed the filmmaker had “likely received a crude general response”.
By July 2022, Qureshi initiated a Zoom meeting with Hoyes to hopefully resolve the complaint. Hoyes reportedly told Qureshi that he knew the BFI was a “systemically racist” organization and apologized for his experience.
“It felt like I was complaining about a bad meal, not something that significantly affected my career,” Qureshi said. His case remains unsolved.
The organization was hit with 11 funding complaints between 2019 and 2022, four of which related to racial discrimination.
At the end of 2022, the BFI commissioned an external consultant to review its standard complaint handling processes, and the institute is now reviewing its procedures within the deadline, as well as organizing anti-racism training to address unconscious bias.
BFI chief executive Ben Roberts confirmed the institute’s “challenging and thought-provoking” efforts to tackle discrimination. “It’s incredibly important to us to become a truly anti-racist organization,” Roberts said in a statement shared with IndieWire. “As a public funder open to everyone, one of our biggest challenges is dealing with the inevitably high level of unsuccessful applications. Failing to secure funding for a project can make applicants feel like we’re not the right place for them, so our job is to keep filmmakers motivated to apply for future projects and handle challenges and complaints well. We understand that we don’t have a perfect system, and we’re working hard to make it more user-friendly.”
The BFI noted that 35 per cent of the productions it supported in the past 12 months came from ethnically diverse writers, directors and producers.
“We have seen real progress in the diversity of storytelling supported by the BFI Film Fund,” said Roberts. “The BFI, as a public financier and the industry’s leading body, is rightly held to the highest standards. The work done in building a more diverse and inclusive organization and in continuously improving the representation of the screen sectors is at the heart of our 10-year Screen Culture 2033 strategy. Becoming a truly anti-racist organization is incredibly important to us. I am proud of how seriously our teams take this work.”
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