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Oscars Countdown: Female filmmakers in Oscars history


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Five. Five. This paltry number is the number of women who have been nominated for the Best Director gong in 90 years of Oscars history. That's right, in nine decades of award ceremonies, there have only been five women nominated for their efforts behind the camera, only one of whom has actually won the honour: Kathryn Bigelow in 2010.

Up until this year, we had gone eight years with not a single woman nominated for the Best Director prize, and no woman of colour has ever received a nomination. Now while I could rant about the sexism (and racism) inherent in Hollywood till the cows come home, instead, I thought we could celebrate the achievements of those women who have managed to crack that glass ceiling.

1. Kathryn Bigelow - Won the Best Director Award in 2010

Kathryn Bigelow

In 2009 Kathryn Bigelow finally ended the 81 year drought of no female directors winning the directing honour, as she won the prize for war film, The Hurt Locker (2008), following an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team in the Iraq War. Bigelow beat out James Cameron, Lee Daniels, Jason Reitman and Quentin Tarantino for the honour. 

2. Lina Wertmuller - Nominated for Best Director in 1977

Lina Wertmuller

Lina Wertmuller has the honour of being the first woman ever to be nominated for the Best Director honour, at the 49th Awards Ceremony in 1977. It took nearly 50 years for a woman to be even nominated for the award and another 31 for a woman to win, just let that sink in. Wertmuller was nominated for Seven Beauties (1975), an Italian language film which follows a man who deserts the Italian Army and then is captured and sent to a German Prisoner of War camp. Wertmuller was ultimately beaten to the honour by John G. Avildsen, the director of Rocky (1976). 

3. Jane Campion - Nominated for Best Director in 1994

Jane Campion

17 years after Wertmuller's nomination, the Academy deigned to nominate another woman for the Best Director honour, this time it was Jane Campion who was up for the award. Campion was nominated for The Piano (1993), a film about a mute piano player and his daughter, set in 19th Century New Zealand. Campion lost out on the award to Steven Spielberg for Schindler's List (1993). But it wasn't all a loss for Campion, she did win an award for Best Original Screenplay for The Piano in the same year.

4. Sofia Coppola - Nominated for Best Director in 2004

Sofia Coppola

10 years later, since evidently the Academy is not able to nominate female directors without a huge gap in between them, Sofia Coppola became the third woman to be nominated for the Best Director honour for Lost In Translation (2003), a romantic comedy based in a hotel, with the two lead characters bonding during their stay. Coppola was beaten to the award by Peter Jackson for Lord of The Rings: Return of The King (2003). She did however, like Jane Campion, win the award for Best Original Screenplay.

5. Greta Gerwig - Nominated for Best Director in 2018

Greta Gerwig

8 years after Kathryn's Bigelow's win, during which time, not a single woman was put up for Best Director, even though plenty were making films, we finally ended the all male Best Director drought. Greta Gerwig was nominated for her film Lady Bird (which she also wrote) which tells the coming of age story of high school senior, Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson and her troubled relationship with her mother. Gerwig faces some stiff competition in the category, with Guillermo Del Toro, Paul Thomas Anderson, Jordan Peele and Christopher Nolan all up for the award as well. We'll have to wait until Sunday to see if Greta can crack that glass ceiling and join Kathryn Bigelow as a female director Oscar winner. 

So there we have it, the very short history of female filmmakers at the Oscars. In terms of diversity, the directing category at the Oscars is one of the worst, being almost entirely dominated by white males. Only four Asian directors have been nominated (with one winner), five black directors (no winners), and seven Latino directors (four winners). It certainly seems that the Academy has work to do when it comes to recognize more than just white male directors. Let's hope that 2018 is the start of a turning point in Oscars History and that this time we won't need to wait nearly a decade for another woman to be put up for the award. 

The 90th Academy Awards will take place on March 4th.

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