The Academy Awards snub female directors yet again

Illustration by Shelsey Braswell

The Academy Awards recently released its nominations in preparation for the ceremony’s 92nd year, as well as its second year going hostless. The 24 category nominations celebrate a wide variety of films from American filmmaker Noah Baumbach’s emotional rollercoaster “Marriage Story” to South Korean film director Bong Joon-Ho’s thriller “Parasite.” However, the nominations for Best Director, one of the most prestigious awards given out during the ceremony, omitted female directors yet again. This year’s Best Director nominees include Martin Scorsese, Todd Phillips, Sam Mendes, Quentin Tarantino and Joon-Ho.

Since the Oscars first took place in 1929, a total of five women have been nominated for Best Director and only one, American film director Kathryn Bigelow, has ever won. Bigelow won Best Director for her work on the 2010 war-epic “The Hurt Locker.”

Graduate student Kathryn Burrell calls the Oscars her version of the Super Bowl because the award show takes place so close to the sporting event and her birthday. She said she does not remember a time when she was not interested in film, which is what led her to majoring in theater and film studies and pursuing her graduate degree in communication with an emphasis in documentary studies.

Burrell referred to the nominations this year as being the biggest eye roll of her life. She said she was pulling for people, like “Little Women” director and actress Greta Gerwig, to be nominated for Best Director and that it really ruined her day when the nominees for the category were revealed.

“All of the nominees, except for Bong Joon-Ho, are white men,” Burrell said. “The thing is, this happens because the academy has lots of members from the time they’ve been voting — from the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, probably even the ’40s. And the people who were making movies at the time were all white men so that’s why the voting body is all white men.”

Burrell said the previous assumption that whoever won Best Director would also win Best Picture is not true. She also said people are now winning categories without having to win others because voting trends seem to be moving in another direction even though those nominated remain the same.

Burrell understands people want to boycott the Oscars due to the gender and race issues presented, but she does not think people should stop watching. She said it is important to remember the Oscars represent a small portion of the film industry and nothing is going to change if individuals are not pushing for it.

Ember Crowley, sophomore and creative media and film major, is a director for UTV Studios and has won several awards for her films. She is currently nominated for the Flagstaff Arts Council Viola Award for emerging artist. At 18, Crowley said she feels like she has to maintain an older persona and push herself harder within the department.

“I kind of have to put myself out there more than you would have to expect in comparison to my male counterparts in the department,” Crowley said. “I’m like, ‘OK, I have to be loud at this meeting and stand upright and put my hands on my hips because I have to get people’s attention.’”

Crowley said she was not surprised at the nominations snubbing women, especially because there have only ever been five nominated. She also said in light of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, one might think some changes would have been made within the industry, but they have not.

As a female director, Crowley said that she and other female filmmakers lack role models to look up to in the industry. She said it is time that society and the film industry start bearing witness to the difficulties female filmmakers face and begin making the necessary changes. One change Crowley suggested is for the academy to add more spots for best director nominees.

Jonathan Rome is a student at Columbia College Hollywood where he is majoring in cinema directing. He is from Salinas, California, which is where he made 22 short films and one feature-length film. Rome said he decided to be a director to make films that help people feel less lonely because that is what John Hughes’ “The Breakfast Club” did for him.

Rome said he was shocked upon seeing the nominations this year.

“I told everyone I could that there’s no way a female director wouldn’t make it into the Oscars category even though the Golden Globes did the same,” Rome said. “The process for choosing the [Golden] Globes nominations is completely different from choosing the Oscar nominations, so I thought there’d be a chance that one of the incredible female directors would make it in.”

Rome said the Golden Globes nominees are chosen by a group of foreign critics who are not involved in the film industry. However, the Oscar nominations are chosen by a very large group of industry professionals, such as actor Tom Holland and actor Jordan Peele. As of 2018, there were over 7,000 active voters.

Rome said even though there were so many great female-directed films, the lack of acknowledgment of their work is just a result of the voting process. However, Rome said he is still deeply hurt by their exclusion.

Senior film major Kye Hill is currently directing her first film with UTV Studios. Despite originally being a theater major, she decided she would give filmmaking a shot. Similar to Crowley, Hill was disappointed, but not surprised, upon seeing the nominations.

“This seems to be a recurring thing where they snub women, people of color and the LGBTQ+ community,” Hill said. “So anyone that’s a minority, they probably won’t recognize them or at least not to their fullest extent. It’s, unfortunately, something I expected to happen, with ‘Joker’ getting all 11 nominations and all, yet they can’t acknowledge Greta Gerwig as a director.”

Hill thinks it is unfair that some people are growing up without proper media representation in Hollywood since they are not getting to relate to certain experiences like other groups of people are. Although representation in Hollywood remains an ongoing fight, Hill said the industry has gotten better in terms of trying to tell stories that are not centered around white males. However, she said the academy and unions still seem to disregard those efforts.

Hill said she hopes the academy gets better and breaks its cycle of continuing the same pattern year after year and becomes more inclusive in years to come.

All three directors and Burrell explained Greta Gerwig should have been nominated for Best Director, especially because her adaption of “Little Women” is nominated in four other categories, including Best Adapted Screenplay. Two of its actresses, Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh, are also nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively.

It is evident representation in Hollywood is a discussion seemingly had every time award season rolls around, yet the ceremony still remains as it has been historically. However, it is unclear when the academy will implement changes in order to be more inclusive. The Oscars will air Sunday at 6 p.m. MST on ABC.