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A BAFTA initiative aimed at improving diversity in the U.K.’s film and TV industry has come under fire after an actress said she faced racist comments while on the program.
India Eva Rae joined the BAFTA Elevate program — set up in 2017 to support those from underrepresented groups progress to the next stage of their career — in its 2019 intake, having starred in the Channel 4 series On the Edge.
However, speaking to the BBC, she described the initiative — which was born out of a research report commissioned by BAFTA, the British Film Institute and ScreenSkills — as a “PR exercise,” with participants merely recruited to help “clean up” BAFTA’s image around issues of diversity.
As part of the Elevate program, participants are invited to take part in workshops, master classes, industry introductions, events and peer-to-peer meetings, tailored to help the individuals reach their career goals.
But in one meeting, Rae said that a casting directors described her as an “exotic talent,” saying that she “couldn’t understand the English coming out of your mouth.”
When she turned to advice from one of the mentors on the scheme, Rae claims she was told not to report the incident. “This mentor told me and other members of the group that we will never work again if we speak up,” she said.
In a statement provided to The Hollywood Reporter, BAFTA described the concerns raised by Rae as “one isolated incident,” adding that it would “investigate urgently.”
“BAFTA Elevate was created in 2017 and has supported over 50 talented individuals from underrepresented groups in progressing their careers, and to help tackle the issue of diversity in our industries as a whole. We know firsthand from very many people who have been part of the initiative that they have really benefitted from it, and for some it has been truly career-changing,” it said.
“In one isolated incident, an Elevate participant has voiced some concerns over comments made to her. BAFTA condemns bullying, harassment, racism and discrimination of any kind and we take allegations of this nature incredibly seriously and will investigate urgently. We go to great lengths to ensure our programmes are as inclusive and accessible as possible for everyone who takes part, whatever their specific support needs are, and have responded to and want to resolve the participant’s requests in this area.”
Speaking to the BBC, BAFTA CEO Amanda Berry said that she’d been made aware that Rae had had a negative experience involving a casting director, but said that it hadn’t happened at an event on the Elevate program. Berry also said that while BAFTA hadn’t received any complaints about either incident described by Rae, they would have been taken extremely seriously had they been reported.
“It is a matter of great sadness and regret for me that anyone would feel this way, and our door remains completely open to find a solution and to ensure that every participant benefits from the scheme,” Berry told the BBC. “I know that other participants have found this to be a truly fantastic opportunity.”
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