“Congratulations to those men,” said an exasperated Issa Rae after reading out the Academy Award nominees for Best Director yesterday afternoon, a category exclusively composed of middle-aged male film-makers for the second consecutive year. I don’t wish to detract from the cinematic achievements of these directors, all of whom deserve recognition for their extraordinary work (with the notable exception of Joker’s Todd Phillips), but the pointed absence of female directors yet again is hugely dispiriting.
The Oscars are certainly not the only awards body that has passed over women film-makers this season: the Golden Globes, Baftas and Directors Guild of America each snubbed the many worthy female-helmed contenders. When the highlights of the 2019 film calendar included Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, Marielle Heller’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood, Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers, Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart, Lulu Wang’s The Farewell, Alma Har’el’s Honey Boy and Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire (I could go on), it simply isn’t good enough that not one of these critically revered, box-office successes saw its director nominated. But why do women keep getting shut out of one of the Oscars’ most important categories?
Related article: Oscar Nominations 2020: The Full List
ACADEMY MEMBERS ARE STILL PREDOMINANTLY MALE
Only five women have ever been nominated for Best Director at the Academy Awards since it started doling out statuettes in 1927; of this small handful of directors, the lone winner remains Kathryn Bigelow, who took home the prize in 2010 for The Hurt Locker. Since the embarrassing publicity generated by 2016’s outraged hashtag #OscarsSoWhite that bemoaned the exclusion of any BAME actors among the nominees – a fate that worryingly would have been repeated this year were it not for Cynthia Erivo, but that’s a qualm for another time – the Academy has made efforts to diversify its pale, male and stale ranks, annually inviting about 800 new members across the organisation with the intention of doubling the number of women and people of colour by 2020.