People Have Accused Annihilation of Whitewashing. Here's How Its Director and Stars Responded

From TIME - February 14, 2018

On Feb. 23, the sci-fi movie Annihilation, about a group of scientists exploring a dangerous area where the laws of nature have been mysteriously suspended, hits theaters. An adaptation of the first novel in Jeff VanderMeers bestselling Southern Reach trilogy, the film stars Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tuva Novotny.

Anticipation for the movie has been high since the release of the first trailer last fall. But recently, some, including the advocacy group Media Action Network for Asian Americans, have accused the film of whitewashing the roles played by Portmans and Leighs characters, saying the characters on which they are based are of Asian descent and Native American descent, respectively, in the trilogy. In a statement, Alieesa Badreshia, an MANAA board member, said that writer-director Alex Garland exploits the story but fails to take advantage of the true identities of each character.

Others have pointed out that revelations of the two characters ethnic backgrounds are not made until subsequent books in the series.

In response to the criticism, Garland provided the following statement to TIME:

This is not the first time Garland has addressed the issue. In an interview with Nerdist in December, he said of the casting, It would not be in my nature to whitewash anything. I read a book and I adapted it because I thought the book was amazing. And I thought, Im not exactly sure how to adapt this, but Ive got an idea. And I just went with it. So that was it. Garland has previously explained to Yahoo! that he based the screenplay for Annihilation on a pre-publication galley of the first book in the series, before the characters backgrounds are described.


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