A breakthrough year is expected to continue for female directors at the 93rd Annual Academy Awards in April, where history was already made with this year’s nominations: Nomadland’s Chloe Zhao and Promising young woman Emerald Fennell are the first two women nominated for Best Director in the same year.
The couple became the sixth and seventh women to be recognized in the category, following in the footsteps of Lina Wertmüller, Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola, Kathryn Bigelow and Greta Gerwig. So far, Bigelow is the only woman to win the award, taking home the Oscar in 2010 for her thriller about the Iraq war. The Hurt Locker.
Zhao also made history as the first woman of color and the first Asian woman to be nominated by the Academy for Best Director. (Fennell, meanwhile, is the first British woman to earn a nod in the category.) Both women were also recognized in their respective writing categories.
It should be noted that this year’s Oscars have also recognized female directors in the documentary field. Four of the five Academy Award-nominated feature documentaries feature filmmakers at the helm: Times Garrett Bradley, The mole agent Maite Alberdi, Camp Crip co-director Nicole Newnham, and My octopus teacher co-director Pippa Ehrlich.
The Academy Awards have become famous in recent years for snubbing female directors. Contestants like Lulu Wang, Ava DuVernay, and Marielle Heller, among others, have gone unnoticed, even when their films were celebrated in other categories. (Before 2021, Gerwig was the last woman to be nominated in the category, for 2017 Lady bird.)
The historic shortage of female Oscar nominees is largely a chicken-and-egg question: Is the real problem a lack of recognition during awards season or a lack of opportunities available for women to lead candidates? to the awards first? However, that is not to say that female artists have not long been a part of shaping nominated films, often in the less praised role of editors.
In fact, in the first year the Academy Awards presented a trophy for Best Editing, 1934, Cecil B. DeMille collaborator Anne Bauchens was one of three nominees in the category, the first in a long list of women. Academy recognized publishers. A nominee has won the Oscar Editing Award 13 times, including three for Martin Scorsese’s landmark editor Thelma Schoonmaker.
“Women are good collaborators,” Schoonmaker said. The Hollywood Reporter in 2017, talking about why she thought women had thrived in the publishing field over the years. (For her part, Zhao is also nominated for Best Film Editing this year for Nomadland.)
However, the directorial role has long been on another level, generally praised as the sole author responsible for the film’s creative vision, which explains why it has historically been a field dominated by straight, white, and male goalkeepers. However, as the wheels of progress continue to move slowly, Hollywood is finally seeing more women take a chance behind the camera, leading to this year’s historic mile markers.
At the Golden Globes last month, Zhao became the second woman to win Best Director, after Barbra Streisand, for Yentl, in 1984. After also winning a Critics Choice Award, Zhao is now the Oscar favorite. Nomadland’s The famous run began when the film won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, and could become the first woman of color to win the Best Director award.
The success of Zhao and Fennell, as well as One night in Miami Regina King: This year’s awards season is by no means a panacea for the problem of female representation in the director’s chair. But it is a start.
An Oscar win for either of them would mark a major milestone for Hollywood’s most prestigious awards and highlight what may be one of the most prolific years to date for women behind the camera. And with the recognition and prestige of the female directors awards comes the other side of the equation; the chicken or the egg, depending on how you look at it.
Zhao is currently in post-production on the Marvel Phase 4 tentpole set. The Eternals, while Fennell was recently announced as the writer of an upcoming DC Comics movie about the magical heroine Zatanna.
Increases in representation lead to increased opportunities, and next year has a slate of films directed by women poised to win over critics and audiences alike.
Acclaimed director Jane Campion – herself the second woman nominated for Best Director, for The piano in 1994 – returns to the cinema with an adaptation of The power of the dog starring Benedict Cumberbatch, which is expected to launch on Netflix this year and is already generating awards for next year.
Zhao also has early 2022 rumors for The Eternals, And Marvel fans will soon finally be able to see the Cate Shortland movie Black widow independent film. Nia DaCosta is set to make her prestigious Jordan Peele-style horror debut with The candy man, and Janicza Bravo is bringing a wild Twitter thread to life on Zola. Also, Olivia Wilde’s second effort, Do not worry honey, Liesl Tommy’s biopic about Jennifer Hudson, starring Aretha Franklin, Respect, Lisa Joy’s sci-fi drama, Reminiscenceand Kay Cannon Cinderella , starring Camila Cabello and Billy Porter, are set to hit the big screen.
As Hollywood continues to take small steps toward equitable representation and greater visibility for filmmakers who deviate from the homogeneous perspective that has shaped popular and prestigious cinema for so many decades, we may see 2021 as a turning point. . Hopefully, the headlines about “#OscarsSoWhite” and “all-male nominees” will be relics of the past, a concept as old-fashioned as silent or black-and-white movies. Until then, we will do well to celebrate and elevate the artistic visions of every great director, regardless of demographic.
“Making movies is about communicating,” Zhao said recently in a conversation to Interview with two-time Best Director winner Alfonso Cuarón, himself a history-maker in the category as the first Mexican director to take home the Oscar. “Just by pointing the camera at something, you’re already making a statement of some kind. It’s inevitable, because you’re adding perspective to it.”