In the 89-year-history of the Oscars, only five women have ever been nominated for Best Director, and. . . only one woman has ever won. While recent high-profile nominees like Sofia Coppola—or the one winner in the case of Kathryn Bigelow—have gained attention, not enough films by women have been elevated to smash that celluloid ceiling.
Kathryn Bigelow is the first and only woman ever to an Oscar for Best Director for The Hurt Locker in 2010. Photographed by Mark J. Terrill for The Associated Press.
Throughout the decades, women have gradually been rewarded in other Oscar categories (such as Viola Lawrence or Thelma Schoonmaker for Editing), but only recently has the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) inched towards recognizing women in major categories.
One could argue the number of female filmmakers recognized by the AMPAS is increasing—yet, no female-led projects were nominated in 2019. The Miseducation Of Cameron Post, Night Comes On, You Were Never Really Here and Can You Ever Forgive Me? are just a few of the powerful, female-helmed films from 2018 that failed to gain any recognition from AMPAS. As the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements continue to grow, there remains a disturbing lack of recognition in the deep pool of female talent. It is deeply disheartening that AMPAS continues to turn a blind eye to so much underrated female silver screen storytelling. This year’s lack of female nominations serve as a reminder that the fight for equality in film has barely begun.
In the upcoming months, FF2 Media will celebrate the history of female directors who have been recognized for their films. Not only are they just as capable of telling great stories, there are stories that only women are capable of telling. By looking intensively at the female-helmed films that the AMPAS has recognized, we can examine the one of the major institutions that perpetuates the “the celluloid ceiling.” I will be reviewing the female Oscar noms for Best Director:
- Lina Wertmuller for Seven Beauties (1975)
- Jane Campion for The Piano (1993)
- Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation (2003)
- Kathryn Bigelow for the Hurt Locker (2009) &
- Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird (2018)
It is my hope that by celebrating these nominated works of art, the best of history can repeat itself, albeit far more frequently. In this six-part series on the five women who nominated for Best Director by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (AMPAS), I hope to answer these questions:
- Why the snubs?
- What has been lost to the world by women not winning these career-solidifying awards?
- What more can be done to empower female voices?
There’s one plain and simple message at the heart of all of this: Men are not the sole pioneers in this world and the valuable medium of cinema is no exception. If we demand a sea change to lift women’s up voices, we might even affect next year’s nominations.
© Jarrod Emerson FF2 Media LLC
Photo: Kathryn Bigelow wins an Academy Award for Best Director (Credit: MICHAEL CAULFIELD/WIREIMAGE)