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26th March 2023

Diversity and the long road ahead: The lack of female directors at the 2023 Academy Awards

It seems that once again the Academy Awards have let down female directors by failing to nominate a single one; here’s what we have to say about it.
Diversity and the long road ahead: The lack of female directors at the 2023 Academy Awards
Photo: @womeninfilmla @ Instagram

Many film fans were disappointed yet again with this year’s Oscars that failed to nominate a single female director. Despite some progress being made recently with women winning Best Director in back-to-back years, the 95th Academy Awards have already broken that streak. This year’s nominees were Todd Field (Tar), Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (Everything Everywhere All At Once), Martin McDonagh (The Banshees of Inisherin), Ruben Ostlund (Triangle of Sadness), and Steven Spielberg (The Fabelmans).

On Sunday night it was Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert who won the award, with their film Everything Everywhere All At Once winning seven categories in total. This is a sensational achievement when considering how behind the Academy Awards are with regards to diversity and representation. Michelle Yeoh made Oscars history by winning Best Actress for her role as Evelyn Quan Wang in the absurdist comedy-drama Everything Everywhere All At Once and therefore making her the first Asian lead actress winner.

Whilst the Daniels are undoubtedly deserving winners of the Best Director award this year, it’s still important to note that there have only ever been eight nominations of female directors for this award ever. Only one of these was a foreign language movie – Lina Wertmuller’s Seven Beauties (1977) – and the Academy has never nominated a Black woman. I

n the nearly one-hundred years of Oscars history, the Best Director award has only ever been won by three women: Jane Campion for The Power of the Dog (2021), Chloe Zhao for Nomadland (2020), and Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty (2012). Zhao is the first and only woman of colour to get a Best Director nomination. Yet Roman Polanski continued to receive nominations twice (1980 and 2002) following felony charges including rape which caused him to flee to Paris.

As mentioned, female directors were severely overlooked at this year’s Oscars without a single nomination for women in this category. There were numerous highly successful films by female directors this year including Till by Chinonye Chukwu, The Woman King by Gina Prince-Bythewood, Women Talking by Sarah Polley, I Wanna Dance with Somebody by Kasi Lemmons, Bodies, Bodies, Bodies by Halina Reijn, She Said by Maria Schrader and of course Don’t Worry Darling by Olivia Wilde. It was extremely disappointing that not one of these directors even received a nomination.

What’s clearer than ever is that the Oscars are representing larger socio-economic issues at play: out of the 100 highest grossing movies of 2022, only 9% of them were directed by women and 2.7% by women of colour. These figures are maddening, and honestly scary. As a drama student interested in filmmaking myself, it’s frustrating to see how often inclusivity in the industry is overlooked. Therefore, it’s more important than ever to continue supporting female directors as much as possible. Watch their films, get your friends to watch them, share them on your socials. With the upcoming films for the year, there’s no reason why this shouldn’t be too much trouble for fellow film enthusiasts.

2023 looks to be an exciting year for female directors. Perhaps the most anticipated are Greta Gerwig’s Barbie starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, and Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla. But in the near future, we have Rye Lane by Raine Allen Miller to look forward to on March 17 and then Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Kelly Fremon Craig, and Polite Society by Nida Manzoor both set to release on April 28.What a line-up we have ahead of us!

If there’s one thing that this year’s Oscars have taught us it’s that change will happen eventually. The 2023 Academy Awards featured a lot of well overdue firsts including Ruth E. Carter becoming the first Black woman to win two Oscars, Naatu Naatu being the first Indian song to be nominated for and win an Oscar, and The Elephant Whisperers becoming the first Indian-produced film to win an Oscar.

Of course, we the people have no say in the Oscars nominations and winners, but, that doesn’t mean that we can’t do our part. Support women and people of colour in the film industry by watching their films and promoting them. Hopefully we can enact positive change and perhaps the 2024 Academy Awards won’t overlook female directors once again…

Imogen Mingos

Imogen Mingos

Head Fashion & Beauty Editor 2023-24 | Winner of Best Newcomer (The Mancunion) at SU Awards 2023

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