The Absence of Female Directors at the Academy Awards

by Sean Coyle

soffia coppolaWhen it comes to the Oscars there always seems to be a shortage of female directors nominated for the coveted Best Director award even when the previous year in film has seen a significant film or (films in some cases) released by a significant female director.

So why the lack of nominations? Why the Snub of these talented women?

This year as the Oscars roll around again it has dawned on me that Kathryn Bigelow hasn’t been nominated for Zero Dark Thirty despite the fact the film has been well received all round by critics and audiences alike.  Not to mention it’s a hard a hitting film (not a Comedy often associated with  female directors like Penny Marshal, Betty Thomas, Nancy Myers, Nora Ephron or Amy Heckerling ) it’s the type of movie that you would expect would be at least nominated.
(Not that there is anything wrong with Comedy but it seems the genre just doesn’t sell well with the Academy for some reason but that’s another story).

Bigelow has the distinction of being the only female so far to win the coveted award (She won for her 2009 movie the Hurt Locker).

There is a huge pool of female directors out there producing great work and in past years pieces by Patty Jenkins, Catharine Hardwick, Kimberly Pierce, Jodi Foster to name but a few have come up short in terms of being nominated for Best Director.

Apart from Bigelow the only other females to be nominated for the award were Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation in (2003), Lina Wertmüller for Seven Beauties (1976), & Jane Campion for The Piano (1993).
With Bigelows win in March 2010 it seemed like things were perhaps changing, the doors were starting to open but a year later Debra Granik was overlooked for Winters Bone and Lisa Cholodenko was overlooked for the Kids are All Right to the astonishment of many fans and critics.

It’s significant that Barbra Streisand presented the Best Director award to Bigelow uttering the words “well the time has come”, Has it? Streisand herself was controversially snubbed for masterpieces like Yentl (1983) and The Prince of Tides (1991) despite both movies receiving several nominations in other categories but even Streisand a highly successful director with the knack of being highly creative within her art and yet has a commercial appeal with a large audience couldn’t even break the mould.

(It’s worth noting Barbra’s “time might still come” she has signed a new movie deal with Aldamisa International to direct again so we’ll look forward to her new output. It would be nice if she finally won the best director award seen as she has paved the way for many directors both male and female).

When it comes to the likes of Clint Eastwood or Ron Howard or a barrage of other male directors there is never a problem. They get nominated.
This isn’t a male director hating article I’m only pointing out a lot of great movies have been sadly overlooked in past years with this year being no exception.

Is it down to Politics, Jealousy and Sexism who knows?

But what is a known fact the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences governing board is a predominately male dominated group and this year only Bigelow and Cholodenko are female members in the directors division.

Am I the only person who thinks it’s time for a change?

Come on Academy,start recognizing.

For film fans all we can do is sit back and enjoy the awards this year and hope in the years to come we will see more great movies by promising if not great female directors getting a nomination at the very least and being recognized on films biggest night.


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