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What Moonlight's win means for Hollywood's push for diversity




US Actor Mahershala Ali delivers a speech on stage after he won the award for Best Supporting Actor in
US Actor Mahershala Ali delivers a speech on stage after he won the award for Best Supporting Actor in "Moonlight" at the 89th Oscars on February 26, 2017 in Hollywood, California. / AFP / Mark RALSTON
MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

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The selection of Moonlight as Best Picture is cause for celebration for many who have been pushing for a greater level of diversity in Hollywood.

But does the conversation leave out key parts of society? Where are the gains for other underrepresented communities, such as Asians, Native Americans and Latinos?

"We represent the majority of the population in Los Angeles," said TV and film producer Ligiah Villalobos of the Latino community. "So the fact that we are being ignored in that way, and that our dollars are being ignored in that way, is very disheartening."

Villalobos, who said she cheered Moonlight's win at the Academy Awards, was the writer and executive producer for the 2007 film at Sundance, called La Misma Luna, or Under the Same Moon. She said her film had to rely on independent fundraising to get it to production before major studios put bids in to acquire it.

The dynamic shows a disconnect in the industry, said Darnell Hunt, a sociology professor at UCLA who compiles an annual report on diversity in Hollywood.

"The people making decisions are making decisions based on what they think might be viable, or what they think audiences what to see, which is often out of step with the reality of what's happening in today's multicultural marketplace," he said.

For example, Latinos buy the most movie tickets, per capita, of any group, said Hunt, yet movies driven by Latinos – both in front and behind the camera – are rare.

One of the most important changes in the short-term is to diversify who holds the power positions in Hollywood, said Hunt. Then, a broader range of movies might hit theaters.

"We're talking about storytelling and we're talking about someone sitting in an office deciding which story deserves to be told," he said.