How can we talk about progress at the Oscars when three-quarters of the nominations went to men?

Sadly, when you consider the wondrously creative contributions female filmmakers have made over the last 12 months, it’s utterly frustrating that not one has been given a nod in the Best Director category

Hanna Flint
Friday 22 February 2019 18:07 GMT
Oscars 2019: Nominations for Best Picture

On the surface, this year’s Oscars nominations give the impression that progress has been made to celebrate the diversity of movie making. The Best Actor and Supporting Actor statues look set to be won by two non-white performers, Rami Malek and Mahershala Ali, respectively, and they’re playing gay characters, while half of the Best Picture nominees centre on diverse characters and stories. One of these films, Roma, not only secured the first Oscar nomination for Best Actress for an Indigenous woman, Yalitza Aparicio, but also could see producer Gabriela Rodriguez become the first Latino woman to win the Best Picture trophy.

Sadly, when you consider the wondrously creative contributions female filmmakers have made over the last 12 months, it’s utterly frustrating that not one has been given a nod in the Best Director category.

Marielle Heller’s direction in Can You Ever Forgive Me? brought out career-best performances for Melissa McCarthy and Richard E Grant and they’ve both earned acting nominations. Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here has featured on more than a few top 10 movies of 2018 list but there’s no love for her or her brilliant film, or Debra Granik for that matter, whose excellent drama Leave No Trace, has a 100 per cent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 211 reviews.

Nadine Labaki’s Capernaum earned the Jury Prize at Cannes and while her film is up for Best Foreign Language film, like Roma, she has not been rewarded with a Best Director nomination too, unlike Alfonso Cuarón. Labaki isn’t the only woman of colour to be excluded from the category; Chloe Zhao’s The Rider, Desiree Akhavan’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Rungano Nyoni’s I Am Not a Witch and Karyn Kusama’s Destroyer were some of the best movies of 2018 but they’re nowhere to be seen at the Academy Awards.

In the history of the Oscars only five women have been nominated for Best Director and Kathryn Bigelow, for The Hurt Locker, is the only one to actually take a gold statue home – that was nine years ago. It’s not the only category to show a complete absence of women: Editing, Original Score, Visual Effects and Cinematography are completely lacking too and in the latter category, Rachel Morrison is the only woman ever to pick up a nomination, which was last year for Mudbound.

That’s why it was hard not to eye roll earlier this year when Academy president John Bailey boasted that more women have been nominated in 2019 than ever before. In the non-gendered categories, there are 52 female nominees, up eight from last year’s 44. Sure, that’s progress, but one look at that Oscars luncheon class photo shows that it is still overflowing with male nominees.

More than 75 per cent of the Oscars nominations went to men and despite the small increase for female nominees, the Women’s Media Centre says that at this rate it will take half a century before there is gender parity.

That is unacceptable. The film industry needs to do something about the continued exclusion of women filmmakers. Studios, producers, and every person who is in charge of hiring, need to recognise the talents of female directors, directors of photography, VFX artists and editors and give them the same opportunities as men. The people in charge of marketing budgets then need to give these female-made movies the financial backing to raise awareness and draw more people into cinemas to watch them.

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The fact is, the industry is still male-dominated and until there is more equality across the business of filmmaking then it’s not going to be reflected each awards season. There are just as many talented female filmmakers as men and it is about time the Oscars reflected that.

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