Spirit Awards: Best Director Winner Barry Jenkins Calls on Hollywood to Champion More Female Creators

In his acceptance speech for best director, the 'If Beale Street Could Talk' helmer honored the women who helped make his critically acclaimed film possible.

Barry Jenkins took home the best director award for his film If Beale Street Could Talk at the 2019 Film Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday. In his acceptance speech, Jenkins called on Hollywood to champion more female directors.

"I'm not gonna lie, man. I didn't want to win this damn award. With everything going on in the world, it just feels strange to be up here," said Jenkins, who beat out Paul Schrader (First Reformed) and three female directors, including Debra Granik (Leave No Trace), Tamara Jenkins (Private Life) and Lynne Ramsay (You Were Never Really Here).

Jenkins then recounted his star Regina King's acceptance speech for best supporting actress at this year's Golden Globe Awards.

"You know, Regina was at the Golden Globes and she said something very wise and very true," he said. "Women only make up 4 percent of studio directors and yet they make up 44 percent of the directors of the competition at Sundance and make up 60 percent who are nominated for this award."

Continued Jenkins: "So, I want to look out at this room, all these producers, all these directors, all these financiers, my reps, all these lawyers and say if even just 30 percent of us agreed with Regina to, within the next 18 months, to produce or finance a film directed by a woman, the 4 percent would become the 8 percent, would become the 12 percent, would become the 16 percent."

Jenkins' comments were met with wild applause from the star-studded audience at Saturday's event. "And so, I'm going to take this [award]," he said. "But I want to take it by thanking all the women involved in If Beale Street Could Talk to make it the film that it was."

He then called out King, Aunjanue Ellis and KiKi Layne, among other actresses who starred in the film. "I had to check my directorial ego and learn," Jenkins added. "I cannot make a movie about women without women's voices at the forefront."

He also thanked his fellow nominee Lynne Ramsay, who he said shaped his career as a director. "I met Lynne in 2002 at the Telluride Film Festival. I hadn't even made anything and she was so kind and took the time and told me what her process was," recounted Jenkins. "So, thank you for all you do. I think this award has your DNA in it, my dear."

Jenkins' If Beale Street Could Talk also won the award for best feature. 

Actress Aubrey Plaza hosted the 2019 Spirit Awards, televised live on IFC from a tent on the beach in Santa Monica.