Canadian director calls invitation to join Oscars academy a 'huge honour'

Frances-Anne Solomon is one of nearly 900 people from around the world invited to join the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences this week.

Frances-Anne Solomon will have a say in who is recognized at next year's ceremony

Frances-Anne Solomon began her career in the U.K. before moving to Canada. She founded the annual Caribbean Tales Film Festival in Toronto. (Akley Olton/Submitted by Frances-Anne Solomon)

When Frances-Anne Solomon received an email from filmmaker Ava DuVernay letting her know she was being invited to the Oscars academy, she thought someone was pulling her leg. 

"I thought it was a hoax," she told Matt Galloway with a laugh on CBC Radio's Metro Morning. "I showed it around my office and everybody thought it was a joke." 

It took about 10 more emails for Solomon — a Canadian director whose latest movie, Hero, was released this past winter — to look into the matter further.  

The invitation, it turned out, was no joke. Solomon is one of 842 new members invited to join the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences this week.

She described the invitation as a "huge honour." 

Diverse group of invitees 

Solomon's in good company. 

Half of this year's class of new academy members are women, and almost a third are people of colour. Invitees also include people from 59 different countries. 

"It's a sign that the Oscars are serious about not just opening up the field but making it less American-centric," Solomon said on Thursday.  

The Academy has come under fire for a lack of diversity in recent years, first for membership that was overwhelmingly white, older, and male and later for slates of all-white acting nominees in 2015 and 2016.

That prompted the #OscarsSoWhite movement, which Solomon credits with pushing the organization to change. 

"I never thought I would see the day that the studio system would open up to the extent that it would really take on voices like mine," said Solomon. 

9,000 members will vote next year 

In the lead up to next winter's Oscars ceremony, she and more than 9000 other members will vote on who should receive the coveted awards. 

"Obviously this year there were no women nominated for best director … and that's not for the lack of women filmmakers, so I expect to see that changed," she said. 

Opening the film industry to more diverse voices has been a longtime goal of Solomon's. 

Her films have focused on everything from a black men's support group in Toronto (A Winter Tale) to a Chinese laundry in Liverpool (Peggy Su!).

She also founded the Caribbean Tales Film Festival, which screens films from across the Caribbean region and its diaspora every year in Toronto.