Richard Dreyfuss said it best.
“This is an art form … no one should be telling me as an artist that I have to give in to the latest, most current idea of what morality is.”
The rules in question force filmmakers to embrace strict woke measures … or else miss a chance at the golden statuette and Hollywood immortality.
Most artists fear criticizing the rules lest they be judged a bigot, a homophone or just pick your favorite “ist” – racist, sexist, etc. Dreyfuss remains a glaring exception.
Others ignore the issue, hoping they won’t be asked about it any time soon.
Can you blame them?
The star and director behind “The Promised Land,” which just screened at the prestigious Venice Film Festival, must have drawn the short straw. They were both presented with a question about their film’s lack of diversity, at least by American standards.
The historical drama follows an 18th century army captain (Mikkelsen) struggling to raise his social status and maintain his values in an increasingly hostile climate. The film is based on a novel inspired by a real person, Captain Ludvig Kahlen.
An unnamed journalist from Denmark quizzed Mikkelsen and Arcel about the film’s alleged dearth of diversity. It’s set in a Nordic country circa the 1700s, therefore it’s not easy to install minority figures throughout the screen while maintaining an authentic approach.
The film is “entirely Nordic, it therefore has some lack of diversity you would say, there’s also new rules implied in Hollywood…” the journalist began.
Mikkelsen immediately shakes his head, laughs and turns to his director in apparent disbelief. The journalist continues, correctly noting that Best Picture nominees must align with a new rulebook that doesn’t consider artistic excellence.
“It’s not because of artistic reasons, it’s because of a lack of diversity,” the unnamed journalist continues. “Are you worried about it?”
“Are you?” Mikkelsen quickly asks in response. “You’re putting us on the spot so you answer the question.”
The journalist brought up the 2020 Best Picture winner “Parasite,” which also featured a single culture but it was South Korean, and therefore checked the appropriate diversity boxes, by Hollywood standards.
“I don’t understand the question,” says Mikkelsen, a frequent presence in U.S. films like “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” and “Casino Royale.”
Arcel took a crack at the question next.
“First of all, the film takes place in Denmark in the 1750s,” the director says. “We do have a big plot line about a girl of color who is being subjected to racism … she was probably at the time the only [person of color] in the entire country of Denmark.”
Diversity considerations, Arcel says, didn’t belong in the frame.
“It wasn’t a thought in our mind…I think it would be a little weird … it’s just how it was in the 1750s,” Arcel finishes, with Mikkelsen grinning beside him.