BFI admits to being ‘systemic racist’ amid probes on diversity

Four Lions filmmaker Faisal A Qureshi claimed the BFI’s inclusion leader overlooked his discrimination complaint, despite admitting internal racism within the group.

The British Film Institute (BFI) addresses claims of racism and diversity with double standards.

A spokesman for the UK-based production organization reportedly admitted last year to Faisal A Qureshi (“Leaving Neverland”, “Four Lions”) that the institute was “systemically racist” and apologized for how it was handling the filmmaker’s discrimination complaint.

During a private meeting, the BFI’s director of inclusion, Melanie Hoyes, reportedly told Qureshi that other black filmmakers had “traumatic experiences” at the BFI, comparing the institute to the ill-fated Titanic, according to Deadline.

Originally, Qureshi allegedly requested a formal apology from the BFI more than two years ago after filing an official complaint about a funding meeting with a BFI network representative in March 2019. Qureshi claimed the former BFI staffer told him he was ineligible for the funding due to his hiatus from directing, citing how Qureshi has been “very open” about race on social media.

Per Deadline, a senior BFI executive emailed colleagues in April 2022 to explain that Qureshi’s claims that he had experienced “racially insensitive behavior” were unfounded, but believed the filmmaker “likely received blunt public feedback.” “.

By July 2022, Qureshi landed a Zoom meeting with Hoyes to hopefully resolve the complaint. Hoyes allegedly told Qureshi she knew BFI was a “systemically racist” organization and apologized for his experience.

“It felt like I was complaining about a bad meal, not something that had significantly impacted my career,” Qureshi said. His case remains unsolved.

The organization faced 11 funding complaints between 2019 and 2022, four of which concerned racial discrimination.

The BFI engaged an external consultancy in late 2022 to review its standard procedures for handling complaints, and the Institute is now revising its procedures by deadline and conducting anti-racism training to address unconscious bias.

BFI Chief Executive Ben Roberts confirmed that the institute conducts “challenging and thought-provoking” efforts to curb discrimination. “It’s incredibly important for us to become a truly anti-racist organization,” Roberts said in a statement shared with IndieWire. “As an open public sponsor, one of our biggest challenges is dealing with the inevitably high number of unsuccessful applications. If funding for a project is not secured, applicants may feel that we are not a place for them. Therefore, it is our job to ensure that filmmakers remain motivated to apply to future projects and that we handle challenges and complaints well. We know we don’t have a perfect system and are working hard to make it easier to use.”

The BFI found that 35 percent of the productions it has supported in the past 12 months are from ethnically diverse writers, directors and producers.

“We have seen real advances in the diversity of storytelling supported by the BFI Film Fund,” said Roberts. “As a public donor and leading body in the industry, the BFI rightly has the highest standards. The work we are doing to build a more diverse and inclusive organization and to continue to improve representation in the film sectors is central to our 10-year Screen Culture 2033 strategy. Becoming a truly anti-racist organization is incredibly important to me proud of how seriously our teams take this work.”

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