We need a change to come, says David Oyelowo in call for action on diversity in film


The time to talk about diversity in film is over and the action must begin, British actor David Oyelowo said at the premiere of his latest movie.

The actor recently told the British Film Institute's (BFI) Black Star symposium he felt he had to leave the UK for America to find opportunities as an actor and begged the British film industry to stop the talent drain.

Arriving at the BFI London Film Festival (LFF) premiere of Queen Of Katwe, he told the Press Association: "I don't think I was saying anything that the actors that are affected by what I was talking about don't know.

"What we need now is for a change to come. I think the talk is done.

"A film like this is doing diversity, I think the LFF is doing diversity.

David and Jessica Oyelowo ( Joel Ryan AP/Press Association Images)

"When a year like this, when you have a lot of films featuring people of colour and female directors isn't an anomaly, we will see the world we live in reflected to us."

David stars opposite Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o in his new film, directed by Mira Nair, which tells the true story of a young Ugandan chess champion.

Lupita, who scored an Academy Award for her role in 12 Years A Slave, plays the mother of 10-year-old Phiona Mutesi, who is living in an impoverished township in Kampala, Uganda, when she discovers a chess club run by a missionary played by David.

He added: "As a person of African descent myself, I've felt that there haven't been enough of these kind of stories, we've seen a lot of the negative side of life in terms of Africa but this is a life-affirming story, this is universal in its theme of a young girl with a dream and achieving it, and so I wanted to see that in the world.

"The fact that a young girl in London can see the story of a young girl from a slum called Katwe and relate to it, I hadn't seen that before."

Lupita Nyong'o and David Oyelowo  ( Ian West /PA )

Lupita, who was raised in Kenya, emphasised how important it was to her to tell positive stories about Africa.

She said: "The fact it was an African story, one that was positive and heartwarming, we don't get many of those given this platform.

"I think it's in telling specific stories that you open the world to the universality that exists everywhere in the world and I think Mira Nair did that with this film.

"She doesn't shy away from the specifics of Uganda or Katwe and in doing that, captures something we can't deny is true of humanity and I think that is what people are really responding to.

"We have that human understanding of what it means to be an African and being an African is a very diverse thing in itself, so this is just one of many stories yet to be told."