×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Academy’s Failure to Nominate Women Directors Reinforces the Status Quo (Guest Column)

Unconscionable. Unbelievable. Unsurprising. Once again, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has failed to nominate even a single woman in its best director category. It is the 86th time in the Academy’s 91-year history of awarding Oscars that the membership has seen fit to nominate an exclusively male slate.

Women’s absence is remarkable not because they remain dramatically underemployed as directors — accounting for just 8% of helmers working on the 250 top films of 2018 — but rather, because in spite of the numbers, more than a few women directed films that were widely hailed as among the best of the year. On his dream ballot of Oscar nods, Los Angeles Times critic Justin Chang included Tamara Jenkins (“Private Life”), Lucrecia Martel (“Zama”) and Chloé Zhao (“The Rider”). The Independent Spirit Awards recognized Debra Granik (“Leave No Trace”), Lynne Ramsay (“You Were Never Really Here”) and Jenkins in their best director nods.

Being excluded from the race to be crowned king — or queen — of Hollywood directors has short- and long-term consequences. The first, and most obvious, is that these filmmakers miss out on the avalanche of publicity in the run-up to, and following, the Oscars. Few women have enjoyed this level of supercharged hype. Among the exceptions is the sole female winner of the best director trophy, Kathryn Bigelow. In the weeks leading up to the 2010 ceremony, Bigelow — who had been working for decades as an independent and highly regarded director — enjoyed unprecedented exposure. Article after article noted her considerable and impressive filmography, her skill as a filmmaker and her determination to maintain control over her work.

Bigelow continues to benefit from her win and increased visibility almost a decade later. Just last year, Rolex included her among an otherwise all-male lineup of directors for its Masters of Cinema advertising campaign. In the glossy, high-profile ads, James Cameron, Martin Scorsese, Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Bigelow commented on their own and each other’s work. Cameron noted their collective “devotion to excellence” and “unique and visionary perspective on the world,” while Scorsese described Iñárritu as being “at the vanguard of modern cinema.” Referring to the other filmmakers, Bigelow stated, “They are extraordinary talents who have influenced me my entire career and will continue to influence me.” The ads promoted and further elevated the status of these directors, showcasing them as icons of filmmaking.

The Academy can no longer shrug off its role in helping to construct our culture’s pantheon of great directors. No matter how many inclusion grants the organization sponsors, if its nominations process fails to include deserving women in the best director category — surely one of the most coveted prizes in its arsenal — the Academy is reinforcing the status quo in the industry. The Oscar is not some value-neutral award at the end of the food chain of film production. Rather, it sits squarely in the middle of the mythmaking machinery that helps build careers in the short term, and reputations, legacies and history in the long term. Kathryn Bigelow will always be remembered for winning the Oscar for best director. The honor is a permanent part of her record as a director and part of the larger historical record of women in Hollywood. The current and future generations of filmmakers will study her films and aspire to emulate her work and career. It’s time for the Academy to recognize its continuing role in helping to suppress the visibility of women film directors, and its responsibility to change the procedures that have resulted in its dismal track record.

Dr. Martha M. Lauzen is the executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film and a professor at San Diego State University.

More Film

  • David Leitch

    'Hobbs and Shaw' Director David Leitch Signs First-Look Deal With Universal Pictures (EXCLUSIVE)

    Universal Pictures is signing David Leitch, his longtime producing partner, Kelly McCormick and their recently founded 87North Production banner to a first-look production deal. “David and Kelly have established themselves as a distinctive, stylish filmmaking team who can do it all, from contained thrillers to franchise tentpoles,” said Universal’s president Peter Cramer. “We are confident [...]

  • Still from cannes competition film "Parasite"

    Cannes: Bong Joon-ho Says ‘Parasite’ Is too Local to Win Competition

    Having been partially responsible for the Netflix fall out with the Cannes Film Festival, “Okja” and “Snowpiercer” director Bong Joon-ho returns to Cannes competition this year with conventionally- financed “Parasite.” But the Korean-language film is a tragicomedy that Bong says may be too nuanced for the festival. “Cannes always makes me feel excited, fresh, and [...]

  • Summer Box Office: 'Avengers: Endgame,' 'Lion

    Summer Box Office: Five Weekends to Watch

    Popcorn season is upon us, and it’ll be up to comic-book heroes, a wise-cracking genie, and a lion who would be king to ensure movie theaters are still the hottest place to spend the summer. Last summer, blockbusters like “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” Ocean’s 8,” and “The Meg” drove moviegoers to their [...]

  • Critics Week

    Cannes Critics’ Week Unveils Its Lineup

    Lorcan Finnegan’s science-fiction thriller “Vivarium” with Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots, Jérémy Clapin’s fantasy-filled animated feature “I Lost My Body,” and Hlynur Pálmason’s Icelandic drama “A White, White Day” are among the 11 films set to compete at Critics’ Week, the section dedicated to first and second films that runs parallel with the Cannes Film [...]

  • China Box Office: 'Wonder Park' Fails

    China Box Office: 'Wonder Park' Fails to Impress While 'P Storm' Rages On

    Even on one of the quietest weekends of the year, new U.S. animated release “Wonder Park” failed to inspire Chinese audiences as much as Hong Kong and Indian movies already in their third weekend in theaters. Starring the voice talents of Matthew Broderick, Jennifer Garner, Mila Kunis, and Ken Jeong, among many others, the film [...]

  • David Picker dead

    David Picker, Studio Chief Who Acquired James Bond Novels for UA, Dies at 87

    David Picker, who headed United Artists, Paramount and Columbia’s motion picture divisions and was known for forging relationships with groundbreaking filmmakers and material, died Saturday in New York. He was 87 and had been suffering from colon cancer. MGM tweeted, “We are saddened to hear that a member of the United Artists family has passed [...]

  • Abigail Disney on Bob Iger

    Abigail Disney Calls Bob Iger's $65 Million Compensation 'Insane'

    Disney chairman-CEO Bob Iger’s total compensation for Disney’s fiscal 2018 was a whopping $65.6 million. Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Disney co-founder Roy Disney, calls that sum “insane.”  While speaking at the Fast Company Impact Council, the filmmaker and philanthropist insisted that this level of corporate payout has a “corrosive effect on society.” Disney took [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content