In the lead-up to the release of his latest movie, Widows, director Steve McQueen said reviews of the film reflect a lack of diversity among movie critics.
"Through the critique of this movie, I’ve seen sexism in a way and racism in a way, which is interesting, even if it's a positive review," he said. "People don't even notice that, but when you've got 90% of the critics are white males, that's what happens."
Speaking to host Audie Cornish on Profile, BuzzFeed News' interview show on Facebook Watch, McQueen said the subtle racism he observed in reviews of his movie, which stars all-women leads including Viola Davis, is indicative of wider ongoing diversity problems in the film industry.
"We need more women directors. We need more black directors. We need more of a diversity across the board of representations within movies as well as critics," he said.
He said that in Widows he wanted to "tell a story of ordinary women" that reflected the environment he grew up in, "where women were the people who made the decisions."
Referring to one scene, in which Viola Davis and Liam Neeson, who plays her husband, kiss and have sex onscreen, McQueen said the scene serves to "amplify a mixed-race couple kissing in a way that their tongues onscreen is the first image."
"If you saw it in the street you wouldn't think twice of it but somehow on the big screen it sort of amplifies and magnetizes what that is," he added.
In a separate interview with the BBC, Davis said of the scene: "I'm dark, I'm 53, I'm in my natural hair — I'm in bed with Liam Neeson. And he's not my slave owner. I'm not a prostitute. We simply are a couple in love. I've never seen it before."
McQueen said his movie is representative of the diversity of women in the US, which he sees as one of the nation's strengths.
"All these people from different parts of the world coming together to make the United States of America is the fabric of America. And that’s what these four women in some ways represent," he said. "And in order to win, in order to achieve their goal, they can't do it without each other."
He said he thinks the Trump administration threatens those foundations of US society.
"The fact that someone is trying to challenge or question or break up the fabric of the country — it doesn’t make sense, because it will fall apart," he said.
Passing on advice to young filmmakers in the audience, the director said he thinks it's important to focus on the art and not on the business side of the industry, and that creatively, "making mistakes is a very important thing as an artist."
"I'm not a businessman. I think I'd be terrible. I just try to make the best movies I can, and I think any artist should," McQueen said. "The reason why you got there is because of your art. Focus on your art. Focus on your talent. Focus on that and then things will come to you."