DUBAI: The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the organization behind the Golden Globe Awards, has added 21 new members after allegations of questionable policies and practices.
A Los Angeles Times report in February this year shed light on the organization’s problematic practices such as the absence of Black members and young blood. “Those who have interacted with the organization describe members falling asleep during screenings, hurling insults at one another during news conferences and frequently engaging in personal feuds,” the report stated.
The 78th Golden Globe Awards took place on Feb. 28 but shortly after HFPA received backlash with multiple studios and networks saying that they would cease engagement with the organization until it made substantial changes to its demographics and ethics policies, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
During a live presentation at the awards, HFPA’s Vice President Helen Hoehne said: “We celebrate the work of artists from around the globe. We recognize we have our own work to do. Black representation is vital. We must have Black journalists in our organization.”
Since then, HFPA has been working to amend its practices and recently announced new members and changes to its policies. HFPA members are no longer required to be based in Southern California with the eligibility extending to all journalists in the US who work for a foreign publication. This applies to all journalists, including photojournalists, across radio, broadcast and digital — not only print.
It has also tightened rules for existing and new members by asking them to sign an anti-bullying, anti-harassment, and nondiscrimination pledge that could result in reprimand or expulsion if violated. An anonymous hotline has been set up to register complaints about any such behavior. Additionally, members can no longer accept gifts from studios, publicists, actors, directors, or any associated parties.
“I’m now one of the youngest members of HFPA in the history of Golden Globes and I have always dreamt of being a member,” HFPA’s latest member Raffi Boghosian told Arab News.
Boghosian, who is the Hollywood correspondent for Al Arabiya and owner of Boghos Entertainment, a Los Angeles-based full-service production company servicing the broadcast industry in the MENA region, has been enamored by the awards and wanted to be a member since his first red carpet event more than 10 years ago.
“I was at a red carpet event and I saw one of the members — the access and respect they have. I love the Golden Globes so much that I tried to be a member.” He asked an industry peer how he could be a member and was discouraged by the response he received because it seemed impossible. “Some people apply for 10 years and they don’t get accepted, but for the past five years I kept trying, knowing that I may not make it, but this year it was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he said.
For Boghosian, being an HFPA member is a dream come true. “For an entertainment journalist to be a member in this respected and prestigious organization is like having an actor or actress winning an Oscar,” he said.
But it is also a responsibility. The Academy Awards, or the Oscars, have more than 9,000 voters whereas the Golden Globes have just over 100 voters, he said. “As members, we have more value because we are much fewer in number and that allows us to have more access and power.”
The Golden Globes also take place early in the year so the winners have a higher chance of winning other awards because “the Oscar voters are inspired by Golden Globe voters.”
In addition to being responsible for highlighting the best work at the Golden Globes, Boghosian also feels “a responsibility for the Arab world.”
He said: “There are so many incredible filmmakers, movies and talents coming out of the Middle East and they truly deserve to be seen here in Hollywood. Hopefully, I will be able to be the bridge between the two regions — Hollywood and the Middle East.”
Boghosian’s induction into the HFPA is symbolic of the changing times and the perception of the Arab world on the global stage. “Hollywood is recognizing that the Middle East is a very important region,” he said. Studios were not very interested in the region before, but due to economic growth in the region as well as initiatives such as the opening of cinemas in Saudi Arabia there is a renewed interest, with “Arabs being heard and having more value,” he added.
We have come a long way, he continued, from Arabs being portrayed primarily as terrorists in Western movies to Rami Malek starring in the latest Bond flick “No Time To Die.”
He said: “Hopefully Arabs will have more chances to become a member — not only in the HSPA and Golden Globes — in every aspect, because Arabs are very smart, talented and powerful people.”