UK is so far behind in terms of representation, it’s shameful: Steve McQueen


Director Steve McQueen accepts the BFI Fellowship Award at the BFI London Film Festival Awards during the 60th BFI London Film Festival at Banqueting House on October 15, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images for BFI)
Director Steve McQueen accepts the BFI Fellowship Award at the BFI London Film Festival Awards during the 60th BFI London Film Festival at Banqueting House on October 15, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images for BFI)

Steve McQueen, director of 12 Years A Slave, has called out “blatant racism” in the British film and television industry.

In an op-ed for The Observer newspaper, the Oscar-winning filmmaker said it is “shameful” that the producers in the UK are still not bringing together a diverse workforce.

“I’m fed up. I don’t want to hear anyone say, ‘Oh yes, it’s terrible’ ever again. I’ve heard it a thousand times. They all agree, but nothing gets done. What I want is to see change, not hear excuses.

“It’s just not healthy. It’s wrong. And yet, many people in the industry go along with it as if it is normal. It’s not normal. It is anything but normal. It’s blindingly, obviously wrong. It’s blatant racism. Fact. I grew up with it,” the British filmmaker wrote.

McQueen’s remarks come in the wake of the death of African-American man George Floyd. The 46-year-old man died last month in Minnesota, US, in police custody, triggering protests against systemic racism in various countries across the globe.

The director claimed the UK is “far behind” the US in representing its black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) population.

“Last year, I visited a TV-film set in London. It felt like I had walked out of one environment, the London I was surrounded by, into another, a place that was alien to me. I could not believe the whiteness of the set.

“I made three films in the States and it seems like nothing has really changed in the interim in Britain. The UK is so far behind in terms of representation, it’s shameful,” he further wrote.

Earlier this week, 700 BAME television workers sent a letter to the UK Culture Secretary and the major broadcasters and streamers demanding action on racial equality.

On work front, McQueen is gearing up to make his television debut with anthology series Small Axe.