It's 2020 and yet again The Academy has ghosted women filmmakers.
The end-of-the-year holiday season is a big time for the international film fraternity as it is also the time for the annual film and television awards. And just like every where, this year too bore witnesses to a tell (male) tale absence of women from top nominations, including at the Oscars 2020.
The list of nominations for the 92nd edition of the premiere Hollywood award for cinematic excellence gave women directors a complete miss when it came to the best director category. And this is not the first time. In fact, this is the 87th time because in it's 92-year-long history, it has seen only five women nominated for the category. Katheryn Bigelow became the only one in 2009 to win it ever for The Hurt Locker.
And it isn't just the Oscars. The Golden Globes nominations for Best Director found no women directors worth celebrating. Neither did the BAFTAS or the Director's Guild of America awards.
It isn't just women directors who don't make the cut. 'Best Film' categories also see a majority of films my men and about men. In fact, even Bigelow's Hurt Locker was about American men at war in Iraq and it cannot get more Trumped up macho than that. In fact, the BBC noted that in the last ten years, only one film that won the Oscar for best film had a female lead (Shape of Water directed by Benecio Del Toro).
Critics often argued that the skewed ratio between men and women directors is responsible for the annual ghosting that just looks like deja vu now.
That women don't make the cut because women don't make films or that there aren't enough women-centric films is a fallacy. 40 percent of the films produced in Hollywood in 2019 had female protagonists while another 17 percent had a combination of male and female protagonists.
Women also made up 10.6 percent of the 100 grossing movies from 2019, a study by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative in California found. That's an increase of 4.5 percent from 2018. Twelve of the top grossing films of 2019 were directed by women including Captain Marvel and Frozen II. 40 percent of the films produced in Hollywood in 2019 had female protagonists while another 17 percent had a combination of male and female protagonists.
In fact, 2019 saw strong films by women and depicting women as lead characters like Greta Gerwig's critically acclaimed period drama Little Women which was one of the top contenders with six nods in the run up to the nominations.
Lulu Wang's The Farewell, light yet nuanced tale about an Asian family's travails as they weave through life, death and legacy, was also a forerunner with high expectations. Yet it remained as conspicuously missing from the list as the famed gender equality in liberal workplaces.
I think @thefarewell deserved everything. Find it and watch it. @thumbelulu is a fantastic director. @awkwafina gave a beautiful performance. Everyone did. https://t.co/UbgCq7k8do— Judd Apatow (@JuddApatow) January 13, 2020
And these aren't the only ones. Lorene Scrafaria's Hustlers starring Jennifer Lopez, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood by Marielle Heller and debutante director Alma Har’el's Honey Boy were all given the cold shoulder.
Nevertheless, despite an increase, the statistics are still dismal. In 2018, only 8 percent of directors working on the top 250 highest grossing films were women. In 2019, the number is up to an ominous 13 percent.
Actresses like the Puerto Rican Lopez, the Chinese Awkwafina who delighted audiences in Farewell and the African Lupita Nyongo's powerhouse performance in the dystopic horror film Us were given the miss whenit came to Best actress categories.
The Oscar nominations for Best Director have unsurprisingly outraged many.
So, the story of 2019 is this. We can direct now but can't be lauded for our achievements. No thank you @theacademy This is NOT leadership it's a form of oppression. #oscarnoms @cnn— Annenberg Inclusion Initiative (@Inclusionists) January 13, 2020
Ugh. @Lupita_Nyongo @awkwafina @JLo @GerwigGreta deserved to be on that list. We want better @TheAcademy It’s one thing to say ”we want to honor women and people of color there’s just no work.” Now we have the work. And it’s excellent. So what's the excuse now?— Gloria Calderón Kellett (@everythingloria) January 13, 2020
Just a reminder that based on demographics, the odds of one or fewer women nominated for Best Director in a decade is 1 in more than 22 trillion.If you assume that men are 80% of directors, it's 1 in more than 5000. 90%, 1 in more than 29.— Franklin Leonard (@franklinleonard) January 13, 2020
In a statement released by Executive Director of Women in Film, Kirsten Schaffer and quoted by Deadline, she said, "It’s disheartening that even as the number of women nominated for awards in documentary, short film, and technical categories increases, there have still only been five women considered for the Best Directing award in its 92-year history. The Academy has made efforts to balance its voting bodies, but gender equality and diversity do not just happen. Without deep systemic change in the industry and a real commitment to equity in film finance, distribution, and marketing, this bleak trend will continue.”
In India, the best director category for premier film awards like the Filmfare has fared somewhat better than their Western counterparts when it came to women's representation. In the 65 years of the Filmfare Award's history, four women have won best director including Sai Paranjape, Zoya Akhter, Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari and Meghana Gulzar who is the current holder of the title. Several others have been nominated over the years. However, Aparna Sen remains the only woman to have won the prestigious National Award for direction.
Nevertheless, women around the world have been increasing turning to directorial roles and achieving both critical and commercial success. Which is why the repeated bias has stung many. At a time when women are breaking the shackles of stereotypes and the glass ceiling of patriarchy like never before, at a time when more and more women are finally being recognized for their work across fields, the ever so familiar snub comes as just a reminder that the future might be female but the present most definitely is still male.