The Oscars Fail to Recognize Female Directors, Again

Jacob Glass (He/Him), Staff Writer

On January 24, 2023, at 5:30 am PST, the Academy of Motion Pictures announced their list of nominations for the 95th Academy Awards, commonly known as the Oscars. It was an exciting morning for many, especially the cast and crew of the A24 film Everything Everywhere All at Once, which leads with 11 nominations.

For many, this year’s nominations bring an array of possibilities. Michelle Yeoh’s nomination for Everything Everywhere All at Once could mean the first Asian best actress winner and the second person of color to win best actress in the history of the Academy. Angela Bassett and Jamie Lee Curtis’s nominations mean the possibility of one of these actresses finally getting the top prize in film for their long careers in Hollywood.

But many, including me, were let down by the complete lack of women in the best director category.

In the 95-year history of the Academy, women have only been nominated eight times for the coveted best director award out of 467 total nominations. Out of the 74 winners of the best director award, only three have been women – Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker, Chloé Zhao for Nomandland (the only woman of color to win the award), and Jane Campion for The Power of the Dog just last year. 

It’s outrageous that women have been almost completely shut out of this category, especially when so many female directors have made huge impacts in cinema. We have seen countless women directors be snubbed for their films. Greta Gerwig for Little Women in 2019, Barbra Streisand for Yentl in 1983, Lulu Wang for The Farewell in 2019, Janicza Bravo for Zola in 2021, and countless others deserved Academy recognition for their work.

This year, there were multiple works directed by women that I believe deserved a nomination for best director.

The Woman King directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood was a film that was completely shut out of the awards this year, despite having buzz in multiple categories. Viola Davis was a frontrunner for a nod this year in best actress but ended up without a nomination. Prince-Bythewood was nominated for best director at the BAFTAs which meant she had a chance for the nomination.

The Woman King was a film almost entirely made up of Black actors and the majority of those were Black women. The movie was one of the most engaging action films I’d ever seen and the acting and direction were top-tier. I am sad to see it end up with zero nominations.

Likely the woman who had the biggest chance to be nominated was Sarah Polley, director of Women Talking. This was one was a surprising snub because Women Talking was nominated for both best picture and best-adapted screenplay. Obviously, this is a film worthy of a best director nomination, so it feels strange that it was left out. 

Women Talking tells the story of the women of a Mennonite community in Bolivia who respond to recent discoveries in their community regarding sexual assault. It has an all-star ensemble cast including Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, and four-time Academy award-winner Frances McDormand. I found the story to be incredibly moving, unique, and compelling. Hopefully, it will end up with at least one award Sunday night.

The Academy, much like other award shows, is in need of some changes. There is a clear bias against women and people of color that needs to be addressed and resolved. It’s sad to see so many talented members of the film industry be ignored and disregarded. There needs to be more women-directed films and more recognition for the ones that are made across all award shows.