Scene from Guillermo Del Toro's "The Shape of Water."

Del Toro scores, but Latinos largely absent from Oscar nominations

The Oscars definitely aren’t “so white” this year, but some observers say Latinos are, once again, underrepresented.

Social media lit up Tuesday after African-Americans made strong showings in several major categories. Mary J. Blige, Denzel Washington, Octavia Spencer were all nominated in the top acting categories, and Dee Rees, who directed the haunting “Mudbound,” was nominated for best adapted screenplay. And the big story was Jordan Peele, nominated for best original screenplay and the coveted best director category. His hit film about race, “Get Out,” received four nods. 

» Atlanta connections to the Oscar nominations

Nominations for Latino filmmakers were fewer. Guillermo del Toro was named in the best director category for his romantic fantasy, “The Shape of Water.” Even though his film received 13 nominations, the dearth of other Latinos in the lineup was noted. 

» List of Academy Award nominations

The only other Latino nominees in top categories were director Carlos Saldanha for best animated feature, “Ferdinand,” and the Chilean film, “A Fantastic Woman,” which was nominated in the best foreign language film category. 

“We are expecting that we are going to have to go to the Academy Awards this year and demonstrate,” Alex Nogales, president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, a watchdog organization, told The New York Times. “We’ve tried to push in less hostile ways. But these studios don’t seem to understand anything else.” 

The last Hispanic actor to win an Oscar was Penélope Cruz, from Spain, who was honored nine years ago for her supporting role in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.” The Academy Awards hasn’t had a Hispanic acting nominee, according to the Times, since 2012, when Demián Bichir was recognized for his role as an undocumented Los Angeles gardener in “A Better Life” and the Argentina-born French actress Bérénice Bejo was nominated for playing a dancer in “The Artist.” 

Only one Hispanic man has ever won the best actor Oscar — José Ferrer, for “Cyrano de Bergerac” in 1951 — and no Hispanic woman has ever been named best actress. 

The hashtag and campaign, #OscarsSoWhite, was created by April Reign a couple of years ago to highlight the absence of African Americans in major Oscar categories. The campaign took off and caused a major shake-up in Academy voting ranks. Some members who had not been active or made films in decades were jettisoned and a more diverse group of Oscar voters were added to the rolls. 

Reign has said that while her campaign was focused on African Americans, it was important for all people of color to advocate aggressively for better representation in cinema, in front of and behind the camera. 

“We’re stuck,” Nogales told the Times. “When will our exclusion matter?” 

The simple story of Ferdinand the bull has been filled out with the typical animated feature fare of manic action, a coterie of wise-cracking animals and more. Contributed by Twentieth Century Fox
Photo: Tribune News Service

According to USA Today, Latinos accounted for 21% of all movie tickets sold in 2016, compared to 14% for both African Americans and Asians, based on a survey by the Motion Picture Association of America's Theatrical Market Statistics. 

Yet a study by the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism found that in 2015, only 5.3% of characters in 800 movies examined were Latino, according to USA Today. 

Whites accounted for the majority of characters, at 73.7%. African Americans were only 12.2% of film characters that year. Asians had the lowest level of character representation 3.9%. In contrast, Hispanics make up nearly 18% of the U.S. population and are the largest minority group with 56.6 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By 2050, that population is expected to reach 106 million. 

USA Today and The New York Times contributed to this article.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism. Atlanta. News. Now.

Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism. Atlanta. News. Now.