Female directors were once again shut out in the female director category at the Academy Awards after two years of seeing progress in the space, with women winning the prestigious award in back-to-back years.
The nominees this year are Martin McDonagh (The Banshees of Inisherin), Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (Everything Everywhere All At Once), Steven Spielberg (The Fabelmans), Todd Field (Tar) and Ruben Östlund (Triangle of Sadness).
That means there were no women nominated despite a buzzy awards year for female filmmakers, like The Woman King‘s Gina Prince-Bythewood and Women Talking‘s Sarah Polley, or Till‘s Chinonye Chukwu, She Said‘s Maria Schrader and Aftersun‘s Charlotte Wells.
Last year, Jane Campion became the first woman to receive multiple Oscar nominations for best director, having previously been recognized for 1993’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner The Piano. She became the third woman in history to win the best director award last year for The Power of the Dog.
Only seven women have been nominated for directing in the Oscar’s history: Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker, Lina Wertmüller for Seven Beauties, Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation, Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird, Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman, Chloe Zhao for Nomadland and Campion for The Piano and The Power of the Dog.
2021’s Oscars were notable as the first to see multiple female nominees in a single year — Chloé Zhao for Nomadland and Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman — the former becoming only the second female director in the Academy’s history to win the prestigious prize.
Women rarely get recognized in the directing category, but that doesn’t stop their films from being nominated for best picture. This year, for example, Women Talking (by Polley), received a best picture nomination. In history, Randa Haines’ Children of a Lesser God was nominated for five awards in 1987, including best picture but not best director. Similarly, Barbra Streisand was snubbed for a directing nomination for The Prince of Tides in 1992, despite its seven other nominations, including best picture. With many more in between, Ava DuVernay was recently snubbed while her 2014 film Selma was nominated for best picture.
The Academy comprises 17 branches — actors, directors, cinematographers, costume designers, editors, etc. — each of which chooses the nominees for the category or categories relevant to their area of expertise. The entire Academy, however, weighs in on the best picture category.
Since 2009, the Academy has been able to select more than five best picture nominees, but not more than five best director nominees, which might explain some of the picture/director discrepancies. But it’s hard not to assume that the demographics of the Academy aren’t also a factor. Even after the push in recent years to diversify the 10,509-member organization, it is still 66.5 percent male members — in the directors branch, it’s 75.6 percent male. The directors branch is in no way the most male-comprised, however: The cinematographers (90.2 percent), sound (86.2 percent) and visual effects (90.1 percent) branches have higher percentages, according to the Academy’s most recent membership numbers.
See the full list of nominees for the 2023 Academy Awards here.
- Female Directors Shut Out Again at 2023 Academy Awards
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