The British Film Institute (BFI) has announced it will no longer fund films where the villain has a facial deformity or scarring, in order to remove stigma around the subject.
The BFI is standing behind the #IAmNotYourVillain campaign created by the disability charity Changing Faces, and are determined to portray those with a facial disfigurement in a more positive light.
Ben Roberts, the BFI’s Deputy CEO, explained the decision:
Film is a catalyst for change and that is why we are committing to not having negative representations depicted through scars or facial difference in the films we fund. This campaign speaks directly to the criteria in the BFI diversity standards, which call for meaningful representations on screen. We fully support Changing Faces’s #IAmNotYourVillain campaign, and urge the rest of the film industry to do the same.
Changing Faces’s Chief Executive, Becky Lewis, welcomed the commitment of the BFI to its aims:
The film industry has such power to influence the public with its representation of diversity, and yet films use scars and looking different as a shorthand for villainy far too often. It’s particularly worrying… to see that children don’t tend to make this association until they are exposed to films that influence their attitudes towards disfigurement in a profoundly negative way.
Along with the promise not to fund films with disfigured villains, the BFI are also throwing their money behind a new drama called “Dirty God”; Vicky Knight, a burns survivor, will play an acid attack victim through the process of piecing her life back together.
Of course, many classic films would have ended up falling foul of this new campaign if they were to be released today, including The Dark Knight, The Lion King, a good number of Bond films, and of course, Scarface. Even the most recent Star Wars film, The Last Jedi, features Kylo Ren with a facial injury from his battle with Rey at the end of the previous instalment. In an online poll conducted by the film magazine Esquire, 78% of their readers agreed that facial scars were “basically fine”, and not a lazy trope.