In recent years, the Academy Awards have taken a lot of criticism for their lack of recognition when it comes to female directors in Hollywood. Out of the 72 times the Award for Achievement in Directing was handed out, only one time did the Oscar go to a woman. It was Kathryn Bigelow that managed to get hold of the desired little golden man in 2009 for her Iraqi war drama „The Hurt Locker“. As if this wasn’t irritating enough, it is even more astonishing that just one woman only – the emergent director Greta Gerwig – has managed to then earn a nomination for the award over the last decade.
Unfortunately, the Academy’s underrepresentation of female directors is reflective on the industry as a whole. Only 13% of filmmakers in Hollywood are female these days. Those advocating for a structural adjustment in Hollywood blame the production companies that still tend to refuse any funding for woman-led projects because of subjective bias. Needless to say, this trend is concerning as it not only alienates voices representing half of the movie audiences, but also dismisses a great deal of potential talent.
So when Chinese director Chloé Zhao received the Oscar for Best Director for her indie Western “Nomadland” at this year’s event, her success was celebrated globally. Not only is Zhao the second woman to ever receive the award, but also the first woman of color. In her speech she said „This is for anyone who has the faith and the courage to hold onto the goodness in themselves, and to hold onto the goodness in each other, no matter how difficult is is“, seeming to address all of her female comrades directly. But Zhao was not the only woman spreading hope this award season. Actress Regina King got behind the camera right into the director’s chair for a change and presented her debut film „One Night in Miami“ and let’s not forget about British director Emerald Fennell, who was also nominated for best director with „Promising Young Woman“.
All three of these women were also nominated in the Golden Globes’ category of best director and give hope that 2021 will be the year to herald a new era of female representation in Hollywood. Here are some female directors we already got an eye on:
Kaouther Ben Hania
The Tunisian film director Ben Hania studied cinema at first in Tunisia, then in Paris. Her most recent film “The Man Who Sold His Skin“ first premiere at Venice Film Festival where it won the best actor award and recently got Ben Hania a nomination for this year’s Academy Award in the category International Feature Film. This movie comes highly recommended and stars Yahya Mahayni as Sam, a Syrian refugee who agrees to make himself into a human canvas and be displayed around European galleries. The movie is inspired by the real-life example of Tim Steiner, who agreed for his back to be tattooed by a Belgian artist and then be sold to a German art collector. With her work, Ben Hania wants to show her audience how hard it is for a refugee to move around the world compared to goods.
Another movie scoring a nomination in the category of International Feature Film at the Academy Awards this year is Jasmila Žbanić’s “Quo vadis, Aida?”. With her production the Bosnian director tells the story of a UN interpreter and her battle to face her family in the massacre at Srebrenica, where 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed in 1995 by Bosnian Serb forces. „When we started on the film five years ago it looked like mission impossible,“ Žbanić explains in BBC. „Bosnia doesn’t have a film industry. We produce around one film a year, with a budget of around €1m. But this film, partly because of the extras we needed, would cost at least four times that and so had to be a co-production with other countries.” In the end, the mission became possible through the funding by nine European countries, including Bosnia-Herzegovina, shining light on the country’s dark chapter.
Josephine Decker is an American actress, filmmaker, and performance artist with a fable for gothic and thrillers that will assault on your senses in the best way possible. In her lates movie “Shirley” Elisabeth Moss plays the haunted writer Shirley Jackson, who is consumed by her latest novel. Get ready for meticulous production design and atmospheric cinematography that will give you goosebumps.
Miranda July is a woman of many talents. Not only is July a film director, screenwriter and actress, but also author of short stories, singer and artist. Her portfolio includes film, fiction, monologue, digital media presentations, and live performance art. As vivid and versatile as her mind must be, so is her latest movie “Kajillionaire”. To call her bizarre comedy that follows a family of con artists who find an enterprising accomplice for their vicious schemes surreal wouldn’t even begin to describe this wonderfully complex and crazy project.
Channing Godfrey Peoples
Peoples was born and raised in Texas, more specifically in Fort Worth’s historic Southside neighborhood that inspires her work immensely. Her movies evolves around black society as she has known it and her first feature movie “Miss Juneteenth” has won or been shortlisted for more than thirty awards. The story evolves around a former beauty queen and single mom preparing her rebellious teenage daughter for the “Miss Juneteenth” pageant. Expect good laughs, emotional dialogues and a good serving of reality.
Words by Ann-Kathrin Lietz
Photo Instagram (@theacademy)