Oscars 2019: An All-Male Category

This year’s award season sees an exclusively male Best Director category; somewhat of a tradition. Over the 91-year history of the Academy Awards, only five women have ever been nominated for Best Director: Lina Wertmuller for Seven Beauties (1976), Jane Campion for The Piano (1993), Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation (2003), Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker (2009) and Greta Gerwig for Ladybird (2018). Only Bigelow won. So why have there been so few female directors recognised by the Academy?

Variations of the question have been asked many times before: why are there so few women in executive positions in business? Why are there so few female judges in the Supreme Court? Why are women underrepresented in the Houses of Parliament?

As with every other industry, the film industry faces questions of representation and diversity. I tried to think of female directors that should've been nominated for Oscar awards but haven't. I found myself facing one pretty big obstacle: I couldn’t think of any female directors. Is that because there aren’t many women directors? I don’t think that’s the case. What I think is true is that they aren't getting the public status awarded to male directors. 

Despite the prestige of the Academy Awards, I don’t think the Oscars always get it right. People often win because ‘it was their time to win’ after a career of notable works. Leonardo DiCaprio, for example, should have won an Oscar long before The Revenant (2016) and that year it was just his time to take it home.

However, the industry kudos points of an Oscar win, and even just a nomination, opens doors for industry professionals. It can get films, that might not have seen the light of day, off the ground and film makers can get more money for new projects. Recognition from the Academy can be a game changer for a career. A game changer that not many female directors have been getting.

I was recently listening to a Kermode on Film podcast where Mark Kermode and Jack Howard went through the BAFTA winners and made their predictions for the winners of the Academy Awards. They raised this issue of a lack of female directors nominated, and both agreed that Lynne Ramsey’s You Were Never Really Here was overlooked across the board and should've received more praise at the BAFTAs.

Kermode and Howard then made the usual argument for few female nominations being due to the fact that there are fewer feature films directed by women. Therefore the awards are simply reflecting the state of the industry. Howard then said, "How about you set an example for what you want the future of the industry to be?"

Yeah, how about that?