The 2021 shortlist for the BAFTA best director award features the highest number of female filmmakers — by some margin — in the British Academy’s 74-year history.
Two would have been enough to level the record, but on Tuesday four were nominated out of a total of six nominees, with Shannon Murphy (Babyteeth), Chloe Zhao (Nomadland), Jasmine Zbanic (Quo Vadis, Aida?) and Sarah Gavron (Rocks) shortlisted, alongside Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round) and Lee Isaac Chung (Minari).
Tuesday’s announcement ends an almost decade-long streak of all-male nominees that has last since 2012, when Kathryn Bigelow was nominated for Zero Dark Thirty. Bigelow remains the only female winner in the category (for The Hurt Locker in 2009).
This year’s nominations come following a major review and overhaul of the British Academy’s rules and regulations aimed at improving diversity, which was sparked following the nominations in 2020 that were heavily criticised, in part, for lacking any female directors whatsoever.
Among the many major changes to the voting rules were the establishment of an initial longlist round, which for the director category included 20 titles split 50/50 between male and female filmmakers. Following a vote by the directing chapter, the top eight female and top eight male directed films were automatically long-listed, with the longlisting jury voting on the remaining two female and two male directors from the next 10 ranking female and male directed films. The final list of nominees, voted on by a jury, was also increased from five names to six.