LONDON: A prominent filmmaker has accused the British Film Institute, the UK’s chief movie-funding body, of failing to address “systemically racist” attitudes by officials in the organization.
Faisal A. Qureshi, an award-winning screenwriter, editor, director and researcher, said he was still anticipating the outcome of a discrimination complaint he filed to the BFI more than two years ago, reported the industry news site Deadline on Monday.
The BFI’s head of inclusion, Melanie Hoyes, reportedly told Qureshi in July that she was aware that other creatives of diverse racial backgrounds have had “traumatic experiences” with the organization, admitting that it was “systemically racist” and likening it to “the Titanic.”
However, Qureshi felt Hoyes’ apology was dismissive, prompting him to request a formal written apology and an investigation into the experiences of filmmakers from diverse racial backgrounds.
He said the BFI responded through a customer service email, leaving Qureshi feeling as though he “was complaining about a bad meal, not about something that had significantly impacted my career.”
The BFI stated three executives, including Hoyes, had apologized to Qureshi after listening to his concerns. Britain’s most influential film-related body also explained that Qureshi had not received a written apology because it would preempt the outcome of his complaint, wrote Deadline, as his case has not yet been closed.
Qureshi, whose credits include the hit movie “Four Lions” and documentary “Leaving Neverland,” expressed concerns over career damage due to his pursuit of the BFI although the institute stated that complaints would not affect funding opportunities.
The initial complaint by Qureshi was about a funding meeting with a BFI Network representative in Sheffield in March 2019. According to Qureshi, the executive had told him he was “very forthright” on social media about race.
An investigation by Deadline found that most complaints to the BFI in the past three years were related to racial discrimination and that the institute was now undertaking anti-racism training, in addition to overhauling its complaints handling processes.
The BFI also said that 35 percent of the productions it funded in the past 12 months were the works of Black, Asian and minority ethnic creatives, highlighting that this exceeds its target of 30 percent.