Written by Joyelle Ronan
Award season is a great time to celebrate diverse American and foreign films. Unfortunately, award shows such as The Academy Awards, also known as The Oscars, notoriously lack female and POC representation. They’re about as diverse as the list of U.S. Presidents. I feel like if it weren’t for the actor category being divided by gender, Joaquin Phoenix would sweep Best Actress this season. While every year Hollywood’s diversity problem is discussed, nothing ever seems to change.
As an amateur (emphasis on amateur) filmmaker, the award I pay the most attention to is the Best Director Award. If we take a look at this year’s Oscar nominees for the category, we see four white men and one Asian man. While I’m happy director Bong Joon-ho of the film Parasite is nominated, I can’t help but wonder (and quote the 1999 pop band 702) “Where My Girls At?”
You might be asking yourself, “Maybe there weren’t any good female directors this year?” That’s a valid question but the answer is no. You are very wrong. A lot of women directed both critically and financially successful movies in 2019.
My fav and previous nominee Greta Gerwig gave us another perfect pairing of Saoirse Ronan and Timothee Chalamet in Little Women (2019). She was snubbed in the directing category but nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. Actress Olivia Wilde directed the comedy Booksmart. Lulu Wang crushed it by writing and directing A24 drama The Farewell. Joanna Hogg, Lorene Scafaria, and Mati Diop also directed great films this year.
Looking at the stats, only five women have ever been nominated and Kathryn Bigelow, director of the The Hurt Locker, is the only winner. In the 92 years that these awards have been around, only one woman has won Best Director. There have been six Black directors nominated, no wins. Five Asian directors (one Asian-American) have been nominated with Ang Lee winning the award two times. I don’t think I need to continue listing statistics, It’s pretty clear there is a problem here.
Best Director is certainly not the only category lacking diversity, it just happens to be one of the biggest categories of the night. Members of the Academy vote for the winners so We the People don’t get a say. However, you can support directors and filmmakers just by going to see their films. Be conscious of the people who direct, write, produce, and design what you are watching. Talented people deserve recognition and should be celebrated not repressed for their gender, race, religion, or sexuality.