Movies

The Oscars have no excuse not to celebrate female directors this year


Regina King, Emerald Fennell and Chloe Zhao are some of the predicted nominees this year (Picture: Getty)

In 93 years of the Academy Awards, only five female directors have ever been nominated, and only one has won.

Since 1929, when the awards began, Kathryn Bigelow is still the only woman to have ever won the coveted best director award after The Hurt Locker filmmaker made history in 2010, despite the sheer amount of female directors who have put their hearts and souls into their movies over the years.

From Greta Gerwig and Sofia Coppola to Ava DuVernay and Patty Jenkins, female filmmakers have been killing it in pretty much every genre you could imagine – yet when you look at the awards they’ve received, you’d be forgiven for expecting tumbleweeds.

Yes, women are completely underrepresented in the film industry, with the problem being even worse for women of colour and transgender women.

But I refuse to believe that in almost a century, only one woman has been worthy of the best director award.

Thankfully, things might be about to change.

This year, the Golden Globes and the Baftas have made history with their diverse nominations.

Kathryn Bigelow is the only women to have won in the best director category (Picture: Getty Images)

Multiple female directors – Regina King (One Night In Miami), Chloe Zhao (Nomadland) and Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) were nominated at the Golden Globes for the first time ever.

Meanwhile, the Baftas saw four women – Chloe, Shannon Murphy (Babyteeth), Jasmila Žbanić (Quo Vadis Aida?), and Sarah Gavron (Rocks) – nominated for the first time.

There’s no reason for it to have taken so long, but it’s a relief to finally see these incredible filmmakers get the recognition they deserve – and, with the Oscar nominations being announced on Monday, there’s no reason for them not to follow suit.

It’s impossible to overstate the impact that the Academy Awards have on the world of cinema and people’s perceptions of it. So imagine the impact they could have by giving female filmmakers the recognition they deserve.

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Not only would it draw attention to the amazing and often underappreciated films with women at the helm that are currently in production and being released, but it could help change the entire future landscape of cinema.

According to the Inclusion in the Director’s Chair report, out of a total of 113 directors who were attached to the 100 top movies of 2019, 89.4 percent were male and 10.6 percent were female.

While that was an improvement on 2018’s figures, it’s still nowhere near enough.

Of course, it will take time for those figures to change, and it massively relies on young girls shattering the glass ceiling and becoming directors in the first place – but where better to start than acknowledging the work of the incredible female filmmakers who have already done it?

That’s not even to mention the Me Too movement, and the impact that having more female directors (as well as more female crew, and film executives as a whole) could have on combating the culture of male toxicity and the sexual harassment, which now seems endemic of the film industry.

Having more women on set, and in positions of power and authority, can only be a good thing.

The Me Too movement has shown the need for more women on set (Picture: Getty Images)

Like many other industries, cinema has been shaken to its core this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

We’ve seen the resilient nature of the industry, as film studios have had to get creative with releasing films when cinemas closed, experimenting with how to get their movies seen and often turning to streaming.

Despite the worldwide crisis, the film industry didn’t fall to its knees. In fact, this year there are 366 films eligible for the Oscars – the most there have been since 1970.

In a year where everything we know has changed about the film industry, surely this is the perfect chance to change long-held habits and start celebrating the women who are overdue some well-deserved recognition.

Really, that’s the most important and simplest part of it – celebrating the women who have made great films.

So before you tell me that, once again, a male filmmaker is more worthy of the best director award than a female one, I’ll be needing you to watch the incredible work of Regina King, Chloe Zhao, Emerald Fennell, Shannon Murphy, Jasmila Žbanić, Sarah Gavron, Greta Gerwig, Olivia Wilde, Sofia Coppola, Ava DuVernay, and Patty Jenkins – and then you can get back to me on that.

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