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After turning the world of TV production on its head, Netflix has set its sights on the world of film. The streaming services has acquired the distribution rights to a variety of movies in the past year or so, the latest of which is Alex Garland's upcoming sci-fi film Annihilation. Starring Natalie Portman, Annihilation is loosely based off the novel of the same name. But the second novel in the trilogy reveals more about the characters, including that Portman's character Lena is an Asian woman. As such, Annihilation has been met with some backlash, and accused of white washing. Natalie Portman herself recently responded to the controversy, although she admits that she didn't have prior knowledge of Lena being Asian prior to the question.
Well, that does sound problematic. But I'm hearing it here first. We need more representation of Asians on film, of Hispanics on film, of Blacks on film. Women in particular, women of color, Native Americans. I mean, we just don't have enough representation.
While Natalie Portman's name may brought into the conversation regarding Annihilation, the Oscar winner certainly seems cognizant of the conversation revolving around representation and inclusion in film. And rather than skirting around the issue, Portman is prepared to make the discussion around her casting both constructive and respectful.
Annihilation director Alex Garland has responded to the controversy as well. It seems that the director, as well as the cast, weren't influenced by any of the novels other than the first. As such, they seed to be unaware that Natalie Portman and Jennifer Jason Leigh's characters were eventually revealed to be Asian and Native American respectively.
In her same conversation with Yahoo, Natalie Portman further expanded upon the problem of race in Hollywood, and why the entertainment world needs to make a collective shift towards inclusion. Specifically, that there's not just white vs non-white roles. She said,
And also these categories are like 'white' and 'non-white', are totally imagined classifications, but have real life consequences. There's absolutely not enough representation of 'non-whites', even though that's a false category. Particularly women of color on film. And I hope that gets to change, because everyone is becoming more conscious of it--- which hopefully will make change.
While Natalie Portman was certainly caught off guard by learning of the controversy surrounding her casting, she addressed the issue, and spoke out about the cultural shift that she feels Hollywood needs to make in the future. We'll just have to see if Annihilation gets lumped into movies accused of white washing like Ghost in the Shell and Doctor Strange.
Annihilation will debut February 23, 2018 on Netflix. In the meantime, check out our 2018 release list to plan your trips to the movies this year.