“And here are the all-male nominees.” Natalie Portman remarked as she presented the award for best director at The Golden Globes in 2018. The actress made headlines for calling out the lack of female directing nominees, not just in 2018 but throughout history.
Just last year, in 2020, Issa Rae unveiled the nominees for the 92nd Academy Awards Best Director and after listing all the names she said, “Congratulations to those men.” Once again, calling out the industry for blatantly disregarding the work of women, already lacking opportunity behind the camera.
In a hopeful change of tradition, this year the Golden Globes made history by nominating three female directors in the classically male dominated Best Directing category. Furthermore, it was the first time in Golden Globes history, more than one woman was nominated in the best director category. In fact, there were three: Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman, Regina King for One Night in Miami and Chloé Zhao for Nomadland.
Prior to this year, only five female directors had ever been nominated since the first ceremony was held in 1944 — Barbra Streisand (in 1984 for Yentl), Jane Campion (in 1994 for The Piano), Sofia Coppola (in 2004 for Lost in Translation), Kathryn Bigelow (in 2010 for The Hurt Locker and 2013 for Zero Dark Thirty); and Ava DuVernay (in 2015 for Selma).
Not Just the Globes
Unfortunately, it’s not just the Golden Globes; award shows don’t have a stellar track record when it comes to honoring women behind the camera. The Academy Awards have only nominated five women in the span of 92 years. Lina Wertmüller (in 1976 for Seven Beauties), Jane Campion (in 1993 for The Piano), Sofia Coppola (in 2003 for Lost in Translation), Kathryn Bigelow (in 2009 for The Hurt Locker) and Greta Gerwig (2017’s Lady Bird).
When it comes to the Oscars, only five women have been nominated for best director in history, and only one has taken home the award.
Female filmmakers have also gone categorically unnoticed with award snubs. Throughout history films and women like Randa Haines’ Children of a Lesser God (1986), Penny Marshall’s Awakenings (1990), Barbra Streisand’s The Prince of Tides (1991),Valerie Faris’ Little Miss Sunshine (2006), Lone Scherfig‘s An Education(2009), Lisa Cholodenko‘s The Kids Are Alright (2010),Debra Granik’s Winter’s Bone (2010), and Ava DuVernay‘s Selma (2014)— to name a few—have been snubbed by award shows in favor of and outnumbered by their male peers.
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Even as recently as 2020 there was a complete disregard for breakthrough work from Alma Ha’rel for Honey Boy, Melina Matsoukas for Queen & Slim and Mati Diop for Atlantics.
Fast forward to 2021, a time in transformation due to the aftermath in which an entire industry was called out by the Me Too Movement, actors and actresses started speaking up on massive pay inequality, and moments like Natalie Portman and Issa Rae calling out the lack of representation of women through a female lens. This year the Golden Globes make history nominating three female directors.
It is the first time in history—in 77 years— that female directors have outnumbered male directors in the category. In Hollywood, female filmmakers are still vastly underrepresented, currently with women accounting for only 16% of directors being hired on the 100 highest-grossing films the past year.
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This severe lack of visibility and opportunity, make this moment of a trifecta of women outnumbering their male counterparts, a pivotal step in the right direction for female equality in filmmaking.
Megan Penn is a Los Angeles based, New York born actress and writer. Megan has a passion for stories in which women are in the drivers seat, along with a bad case of retrophilia.