How cinema failed diversity in 2016

From the all-bro jocks and silent women of Everybody Wants Some!! to Bridget Joness rejection of science, these are the films that failed to take on cinemas push for inclusivity

This was the year when the news became a headache to liberals everywhere, revealing that we had consistently backed the wrong horse, and great fears and tensions were being felt that led people to vote for politics of division. In the weeks after Donald Trumps election as president of the United States, we have seen a strengthening of reactionary politics, with demagogues and fascists feeling empowered by the decisions that have gone their way. We have also seen a certain element of the leftwing seek to blame itself for having alienated ordinary folk. This last sentiment is visible in several films that came out in 2016: works with ostensibly right-on politics that nevertheless betrayed a queasiness towards the modern world, towards minorities and women; films in which a fear of a new world order is palpable.

A Bigger Splash

Luca Guadagninoset the tone towards the start of the year, when this apparently juicy psychological thriller lurched into a wrong-headed and iffy discussion of the refugee crisis. In the film, a singer and her boyfriend (Tilda Swinton and Matthias Schoenaerts) welcome her flamboyant ex (Ralph Fiennes) and his young daughter (Dakota Johnson); the sexual tension flares between these rich, beautiful people holidaying off the coast of wait for it Sicily. The film revels in the glamour of its characters and in their easy beauty, unironically projecting them as stars wherever they go (witness a karaoke scene in which a whole village flocks to see Fiennes showboat in a tiny bar). So, when catastrophe strikes and one of the main characters seeks to blame it on the refugee population, it doesnt ring as Guadagnino satirising his characters vanity so much as shoehorning in a deeply serious and difficult issue to confect some gravitas. No refugees are named, they are only briefly alluded to, and the disastrous events of the last two years are used as a mere narrative crutch. Its a move that betrays an uneasy sense that film should be addressing the political topics of the day, but in a film that has no idea with what language to do so.

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