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Female directors were once again shut out in the director category at the Academy Awards after two years of seeing progress in the space, with women winning the prestigious award in back-to-back years.
The nominees this year are Martin McDonagh (The Banshees of Inisherin), Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (Everything Everywhere All At Once), Steven Spielberg (The Fabelmans), Todd Field (Tar) and Ruben Östlund (Triangle of Sadness).
That means there were no women nominated despite a buzzy awards year for female filmmakers, like The Woman King‘s Gina Prince-Bythewood and Women Talking‘s Sarah Polley, or Till‘s Chinonye Chukwu, She Said‘s Maria Schrader and Aftersun‘s Charlotte Wells.
Polley responded to the nominations by sharing a photo of herself at the doctor’s office. “Expectations were low for today. Here I am at a routine doctor’s appointment. I really didn’t plan this day right,” she wrote on Twitter.
Last year, Jane Campion became the first woman to receive multiple Oscar nominations for best director, having previously been recognized for 1993’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner The Piano. She became the third woman in history to win the best director award last year for The Power of the Dog.
Only seven women have been nominated for directing in the Oscar’s history: Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker, Lina Wertmüller for Seven Beauties, Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation, Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird, Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman, Chloe Zhao for Nomadland and Campion for The Piano and The Power of the Dog.
2021’s Oscars were notable as the first to see multiple female nominees in a single year — Chloé Zhao for Nomadland and Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman — the former becoming only the second female director in the Academy’s history to win the prestigious prize.
Women rarely get recognized in the directing category, but that doesn’t stop their films from being nominated for best picture. This year, for example, Women Talking (by Polley), received a best picture nomination. In history, Randa Haines’ Children of a Lesser God was nominated for five awards in 1987, including best picture but not best director. Similarly, Barbra Streisand was snubbed for a directing nomination for The Prince of Tides in 1992, despite its seven other nominations, including best picture. With many more in between, Ava DuVernay was recently snubbed while her 2014 film Selma was nominated for best picture.
However, there were several female directing nominees in other categories announced Tuesday. Domee Shi was nominated in the best animated film category for Turning Red, as well as Laura Poitras for All the Beauty and the Bloodshed and Sara Dosa for Fire of Love in the documentary feature category.
In response to the 2023 shut out, L.A. advocacy group Women In Film said in a statement, “Once again, Academy voters have shown that they don’t value women’s voices, shutting us out of the best director nominations. An Academy Award is more than a gold statue, it’s a career accelerator that can lead to continued work and increased compensation. That’s why WIF will continue to advocate for the work of talented women directors like Sarah Polley’s Women Talking, Gina Prince-Bythewood’s The Woman King, Maria Schrader’s She Said, Chinonye Chukwu’s Till, and Charlotte Wells’ Aftersun, to be included.”
The Academy comprises 17 branches — actors, directors, cinematographers, costume designers, editors, etc. — each of which chooses the nominees for the category or categories relevant to their area of expertise. The entire Academy, however, weighs in on the best picture category.
Since 2009, the Academy has been able to select more than five best picture nominees, but not more than five best director nominees, which might explain some of the picture/director discrepancies. But it’s hard not to assume that the demographics of the Academy aren’t also a factor. Even after the push in recent years to diversify the 10,509-member organization, it is still 66.5 percent male members — in the directors branch, it’s 75.6 percent male. The directors branch is in no way the most male-comprised, however: The cinematographers (90.2 percent), sound (86.2 percent) and visual effects (90.1 percent) branches have higher percentages, according to the Academy’s most recent membership numbers.
See the full list of nominees for the 2023 Academy Awards here.
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