The 2020 awards season is staring down an unforgivable oversight of female directors
Another day, another infuriating slate of award nominations. Today’s BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Awards) nominations have shut out women directors for the seventh year running, with nary a woman nominated in the Best Director category since Kathryn Bigelow, in 2013.
Meanwhile, Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese are nominated this year, after multiple previous nominations within that seven-year stretch. The lack of diversity cuts multiple ways, with all four acting categories padded out entirely by white actors. The most notable absence from the category is Greta Gerwig, whom critics have predicted would land squarely in the directing nominations at every major award ceremony. That hasn’t happened.
Amanda Berry, BAFTA’s chief executive, commented that she was “disappointed” in the lack of gender diversity in the nominations, but added that it was important "not to take anything away from the people who have been nominated." She went on to cite that 13 female directors are nominated in other categories, namely in short films.
What Berry and others are missing is that nominating women doesn’t take away from fellow nominated men--one person’s success isn’t another’s failure. To be nominated for a short film is undoubtedly an achievement, but to cite those nominations as justification for a lack of diversity in the top billing is to diminish the short film award as a consolation prize, to say what women are so used to hearing: “Be happy with what you’re getting. Don’t complain or ask for more. It could be worse.” This awards season so far has been a paean to male cultural centrality, with men earning top honors for mediocre, self-indulgent films, while even the most visionary female creators can’t get through the door.
At Sunday’s Golden Globes, host Ricky Gervais made a god-awful joke about the lack of nominations for female directors, saying, “I’ve had a word with the HFPA and they have guaranteed this will never happen again. Working with all the major studios, [the HFPA has] agreed to go back to the way things were when they didn’t hire women directors. That will solve the problem. You’re welcome.”
The lack of women-directors in the industry is no joke.
"The top 100 films of 2019 were helmed by a total of 113 directors, 89.4 percent of whom were male and 10.6 percent of whom were female." #GoldenGlobes https://t.co/oqysU0vwif pic.twitter.com/BlQtK4zSqB— Melissa Silverstein (@melsil) January 6, 2020
Women and Hollywood’s Melissa Silverstein responded on Twitter to Gervais, saying, “The lack of women directors in the industry is no joke. The top 100 films of 2019 were helmed by a total of 113 directors, 89.4 percent of whom were male and 10.6 percent of whom were female.”
In the past ten years, the only woman nominated in the Best Director category at the Academy Awards was Gerwig, nominated in 2017 for Lady Bird. In the same time period, the Golden Globes have nominated only two women: Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty in 2012 and Ava DuVernay for Selma in 2014. Bigelow remains the only woman to ever win the Oscar for Best Director, winning in 2009 for The Hurt Locker.
Reports have surfaced of male Academy voters refusing to take Gerwig’s Little Women seriously, with some even declining to view the film. Any Academy voter who refuses to see eligible films isn’t doing their job--in fact, they should be out of a job, period. The only way to make this right is to nominate deserving female filmmakers like Gerwig, whose Little Women is one of the most visionary films of the year, and Lulu Wang, whose film, The Farewell, is a comedic masterpiece with deep emotional truths.
If governing bodies like the Academy and the British Academy want to remain arbiters of what is excellent in filmmaking, it’s imperative that they welcome diverse filmmakers and diverse stories with open arms. Until women, people of color, and LGBTQ individuals have an equal shot in every category, each awards ceremony will be morally bankrupt--and culturally meaningless. As it stands now, the only thing these groups of voters are judging is a white, male world long gone by the wayside.