The Oscars nominated no female directors. Here are 5 women whose work you can support right now
With the Oscars returning on 12 March, it’s hard to escape the feeling that the Academy has taken a huge step backwards for female representation – with exactly zero women nominated for the best director prize.
Despite a knockout year for female-directed films, the Academy has continued its track record for consistently letting down women directors. In its 95-year history, celebrating hundreds of films, only seven women have been nominated under the best director category, with three wins.
Although it looked like the tide could be turning after two consecutive female winners, in 2021 and 2022 – Chloé Zhao for Nomadland and Jane Campion for Power of the Dog – this year has brought a fresh disappointment as female directors have been entirely overlooked.
It’s an unfortunate fact that female and non-binary directors are disproportionately underrepresented. In 2019, the Inclusion Initiative found that only 10.7 per cent of directors for major films that year were women.
With stars such as Queen Latifah working to try bring greater inclusion to the director pool, it’s never been more important to champion their work. So here are five female directors who deserved an Oscars nod, and where you can watch their work.
Chinonye Chukwu – Till
Following in the footsteps of the BAFTA awards, the Oscars is not only pedalling age-old misogyny but Black women have once again been overlooked. The Nigerian-American filmmaker’s powerful and timely film, Till, follows the true story of Mamie Till-Mobley’s fight for justice after her son, Emmett, was lynched in a horrific racist attack in 1955.
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Chukwu has consistently been shut out from the industry since her first feature film, alaskaLand, in 2012. In 2019, she made a breakthrough after becoming the first Black woman to win the Sundance dramatic grand jury prize for her film, Clemency.
After Till was iced out of the Oscars, she wrote a damning post on Instagram: “As I moved through this awards season, I was struck by the Academy members who simply didn’t want to see the film. What is this inability of Academy voters to see Black women, and their humanity, and their heroism, as relatable to themselves?”
Charlotte Wells – Aftersun
Charlotte Wells has knocked it out of the park with her first major feature film, Aftersun, starring Paul Mescal. It is a tender, coming-of-age drama that focuses on a father and daughter as they go on holiday on the eve of the his 31st birthday.
While Mescal’s lauded performance has landed him an Oscar nomination, Wells’ contribution in bringing the film to life has been overlooked. Despite this, she won critical acclaim at other awards ceremonies, including picking up a BAFTA for outstanding debut director, and landing best director at the British Independent Film Awards.
Wells started her career making short films before becoming a fellow at the Sundance Institute. This should be just the beginning for the Scottish writer and director, who we know is going to go on to do great things.
Gina Prince-Bythewood – The Woman King
The Woman King is another film that has been woefully overlooked at this year’s Oscars, receiving no nominations. Starring Viola Davis, it dramatises the true story of all-female warriors in the African kingdom of Dahomey who valiantly fought off invading foreigners in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Prince-Bythewood spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the lack of recognition from the Academy. “Of course I’m disappointed. Who wouldn’t be?” she said. “Especially because there was so much love for our film. And we can never forget that we already won. Not only does The Woman King exist in the world, but it’s a success in the world.”
She was nominated for a BAFTA and a Critics Choice award.
Prince-Bythewood has a decorated film and TV history. She wrote and directed her own biopic, Love & Basketball, in 2000, and The Secret Life of Bees in 2008, and was at the helm for The Old Guard in 2020. We can’t wait to watch whatever knockout projects she has lined up in the future.
Maria Schrader – She Said
The bitter irony of She Said being overlooked by the Oscars is not lost on us. The film is a biographical drama of The New York Times investigation that exposed disgraced Hollywood tycoon Harvey Weinstein’s long history of abuse and sexual misconduct.
Starring Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazhan, Schrader’s film expertly brings the story that triggered the #MeToo movement, to life. Schrader’s directing career goes back to 1998, with her first standout film being Love Life (Liebesleben) in 2007.
Since then, she has also won a Primetime Emmy for her 2020 Netflix series Unorthodox, which follows the life of a ultra-religious Hasidic Jewish woman who flees an arranged marriage in Brooklyn before ending up in Berlin. Schrader’s career is on the up and up, and there’s no doubt that more powerful projects are on the way.
She Said is available to rent on Prime Video.
Audrey Diwan – Happening
French filmmaker Diwan has made her mark in the directing world with Happening. An adaptation of Annie Ernaux’s novel, it tells of her experiences getting an abortion while it was illegal in 1960s France.
Diwan explained to FT why the movie is such a vital watch. “There’s a reason I’d never seen this one before, because Annie told me that, of all her books, this was the only one that didn’t have any media echo.
“Journalists were not interested. They didn’t really want to hear about the topic of illegal abortion.”
The film won Diwan the Golden Lion at the Venice International Film Festival and a nomination for best director at the BAFTAs. This is only the beginning of her directing career. Her upcoming project, Emmanuelle, follows the erotic desires of a woman, and stars Noémie Merlant, who was seen recently in Tár.
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