The Academy Awards began in 1929. Since then only four women have ever been nominated for Best Director: Lina Wertmuller for Seven Beauties, Jane Campion for The Piano, Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation, and Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker. Of those four, only Bigelow has won.
For comparison, Clint Eastwood has been nominated four times and has won twice… meaning Eastwood has been nominated as many times as an entire gender of directors and has won twice as often.
So why aren’t more female directors winning? Why aren’t more female directors being NOMINATED? And what can we do to facilitate change? These movies are written by women FOR women and highlight the struggles all women endure. They deal with race, sexism, sexual assault, war and death.
In light of Natalie Portman’s epic announcement for best director at the Golden Globes—“here are the ALL MALE nominees”—I have compiled a list of super awesome female directors that are often overlooked and the EPIC TV shows and movies they have directed! There are some amazing female directors that deserve recognition.
1. Niki Caro
Niki Caro directed the 2017 film The Zookeeper’s Wife (the screenplay was also written by a woman, Angela Workman, and was based on the novel by Diane Ackerman). The film is centered around Antonia, who turns her and her husband’s zoo into a safe haven that will protect 300 Jews during World War II in Warsaw, Germany. The film highlights women and showcases the sexual trauma Jewish women endured at the hands of the Nazis.
2. Amma Asante
Amma Asante has directed two films that highlight true stories of women dealing with interracial marriage. The first is Belle (2013) which focuses on the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle who was born to an aristocratic father and a slave mother in England in the late 18th century. Belle is raised along with her white cousin, Lady Elizabeth Murray, by their great uncle William Murray, first Earl of Mansfield. William Murray was also the Lord Chief Justice of England and struggles to rule on the case in Britain’s Superior court in 1786 which would contribute to the abolition of the Slave Trade Act in 1807. The case hinges on a slave trader killing his human “cargo” for the insurance money—the mass murder which is now referred to as the Zong Massacre. Belle’s struggle to find her place in society is shadowed by her loving guardian’s turmoil over this historic case. The movie was inspired by a painting of Belle and Elizabeth that William Murray commissioned, depicting the cousins as equals.
Asante also directed A United Kingdom (2016), which depicts the true story of Sir Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams Khama in the 1940s. Seretse is King of the South African nation Bechuanaland which was under the rule of the United Kingdom. Seretse and Ruth fall in love while living in Britain but the rise of apartheid and racism keeps them apart.
3. Lucia Aniello
Aniello was asked to direct Broad City’s pilot when it was picked up for television. When the show was successfully picked up by Comedy Central, Aniello was asked to join the writing team. Broad City is known for its feminist social commentary and realistic breakdown of gender roles in society. In 2017 she co-wrote and directed Rough Night, starring Scarlett Johansson, Zoe Kravitz, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer and Demi Moore.
4. Patty Jenkins
Patty Jenkins infamously directed Wonder Woman (2017) which was a breakout box office success. Jenkins is also directing the Wonder Woman sequel set to come out in 2019. She also directed the movie Monster (2003) which depicted the true story of female serial killer Aileen Wuornos. Charlize Theron won a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for her work in Monster. Wonder Woman was shunned at the Golden Globes but there is still hope she will be nominated for best director at the upcoming Oscars.
5. Reed Morano
Reed Morano is known for directing the first three episodes of the acclaimed Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale. Morano has worked as a cinematographer for various TV shows, movies and music videos, including Beyonce’s TV special Lemonade as well as the recent documentary Joan Didion: The Center Will Hold.
6. Ry- Russo Young
Ry-Russo Young has directed various movies in the past 15 years, including the tear jerking 2017 teen drama Before I Fall (it’s on Netflix check it out!). Before I Fall was nominated for three Teen Choice Awards and won one. Based on the book by Lauren Oliver, the movie and book center around Samantha Kingston, a Regina George-esque anti-heroine who takes her charmed life (and her impact on the lives around her) for granted. Samantha relives the last day of her life again and again until she realizes the effect she has on everyone around her.
7. Sofia Coppola
Sofia Coppolla was actually nominated at the Oscars for the categories Best Film, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay (which she wrote and won) for her film Lost in Translation in 2003. She is also known for her acting in the Godfather trilogy. Since then, Coppolla has directed almost 20 movies, the most notable being The Virgin Suicides (2000), Marie Antoinette (2006)—which won Best Director at the Cannes festival—The Bling Ring (2013), and the 2017 film The Beguiled, which also won Best Director at the Cannes festival.
8. Greta Gerwig
Greta Gerwig was not nominated this year at the Golden Globes for her incredible film Lady Bird, although the film did win best picture. The film is a coming of age story that received a standing ovation during its debut at the Toronto Film Festival. During its limited debut weekend, Lady Bird had the second best box office weekend and the best limited debut of any movie directed by a woman.
Any easy way to help elevate female directors is going to see their movies on opening weekend. Box office numbers on opening weekend are often how critics and directors gauge the success of films. More women writing and directing movies create more in-depth roles for women to play and more interesting and in-depth movies for everyone.
This year, the fifth female director (Greta Gerwig) was nominated for Best Director at the Academy awards, and the first woman was nominated for Best Cinematographer. But Patty Jenkins and Wonder Woman were snubbed by the Academy. While progress is being made there is still a long way to go before true equality can be reached.
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