Hispanic Group Protests at Oscars Luncheon

Marissa Herrera, a third-generation American and a filmmaker, protested outside a gathering of Academy Award nominees on Monday. The protesters demanded more Hispanic actors and actresses on screen.

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Nominees for the coming Academy Awards gathered inside the Beverly Hilton on Monday to eat a lunch of Chilean sea bass with mango and assemble on risers for a class photo.

“I’m so thrilled for you,” Dawn Hudson, the chief executive of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, said to a beaming Greta Gerwig, a nominee for her direction of “Lady Bird,” as Steven Spielberg and Jim Gianopulos, Paramount’s chief, held conversations nearby.

The scene outside, however, was considerably less celebratory.

Several dozen people carrying placards gathered near the hotel’s driveway at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Merv Griffin Way to protest the lack of Hispanic characters on movie screens. “Hire Brown Tinseltown” read one sign. One activist, Brenda Castillo, shouted into a bullhorn, “Not asking! Demanding!” Car horns sounded in support.

Alex Nogales, president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, a watchdog organization that staged the demonstration, said his anger was aimed not at the academy, but at the movie executives who were attending the Oscar luncheon.

“Unless something changes very fast, we are going to start boycotting individual studios this year and calling executives out by name,” he said.

Latinos make up 18 percent of the population in the United States, but only 3 percent of speaking characters in films during the last decade were Latino, according to a study released in July by Stacy L. Smith, an associate professor at the University of Southern California. For the sixth year in a row, no Hispanic actors or actresses were nominated for Oscars, which will be awarded on March 4. Only one Hispanic man has won the best actor Oscar — José Ferrer, for “Cyrano de Bergerac” in 1951 — and no Hispanic woman has been named best actress.

“When people think of diversity, they think of black and white,” said Moctesuma Esparza, a producer of films like “Selena” and the chief executive of Maya Cinemas, a multiplex chain. “Nobody thinks of other minorities unless it is pointed out.”

Growing animated, Mr. Esparza added, “Latinos, like all human beings, want to see themselves represented on screen.”

Joining Mr. Nogales and Mr. Esparza outside the Beverly Hilton were people like Santiago Pozo, the chief executive of Arenas Entertainment, which focuses on marketing studio movies to Hispanic audiences; and Gloria Molina, a former Los Angeles County supervisor. “The movie industry should be ashamed of itself,” Ms. Molina said.

Inside the hotel, John Bailey, the academy’s president, pointed out that it continues to work to increase diversity and referred to the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment, saying that he was thrilled that “fossilized bedrock” in Hollywood was being “jackhammered into oblivion.”

Because its high-wattage guests draw media attention, the Oscar nominee luncheon has become a platform for demonstrations before. In 2013, for instance, two anti-torture groups protested “Zero Dark Thirty,” a best picture nominee that was criticized for its depiction of “enhanced interrogation” in the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

Monday’s gathering came as “The Shape of Water,” a fantasy from the Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, garnered acclaim as the Academy Awards approach. Over the weekend, Mr. del Toro won the top prize at the Directors Guild Awards. “The Shape of Water,” about a mute janitor who falls in love with a sea creature, is nominated for 13 Oscars, with Mr. del Toro receiving nods for his producing, direction and screenwriting.

The purpose of the lunch is to gather nominees (205 this year, 175 of whom were in attendance) for the class photo and a celebratory glass of Champagne while pleading for brevity at the podium by the eventual winners. In remarks before lunch, Mr. Bailey told attendees not to begin acceptance speeches by going on about how heavy the statuettes are.

“And thank your mom,” he said, “not your personal trainer.”

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