Just Remember: 2017 Was An Amazing Year for Women Directors

When the Golden Globe nominations were announced a few weeks ago, there was one thing that stood out to many and that was (surprise, surprise) the Best Director category was ruled by “the all male nominees“.  So, tonight was the big night and you might be thinking: So? What’s the big deal? But, let’s just take a moment to add some perspective.

Something that is a good indicator of award show success are various film festivals around the world. For example, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). If you take a look at some of the various nominees at the Golden Globes this year, many of the films were screened or had their premieres at TIFF. So, it should be noted that at this year’s TIFF, one-third (33.6%) of the films selected were directed by women and an even higher number (42.4%) of short films were directed by women. Mudbound and Lady Bird, were amongst the many films at TIFF which were directed by women and both got rave reviews at the festival (which surely included some HFPA members), which turned into awards season buzz.

The Golden Globe Awards have been around for 75 years and yet, only five women (Barbra Streisand, Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola, Kathryn Bigelow and Ava DuVernay) have ever been nominated for Best Director, an award which is bestowed by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA). Out of those five nominations, only Barbra Streisand has won and that was back in 1984 for Yentl. Not only did Barbra direct Yentl, she also produced, co-wrote the screenplay, and also performed and co-produced the soundtrack. To me, this further demonstrates the point many have made about women directors in Hollywood having to put in multiple times the work as their male counterparts to get some acknowledgement.

I am just going to be blunt here: only five nominations in 75 years is ridiculous, especially with all the of the female directing talent that is in existence.  So, it begs the question of why female directors continue to get shut out, especially when this past year alone, some of the best reviewed and rated movies were directed by women.

Allow me to be clear, I am in no way trying to take away from the recognition that Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk), Ridley Scott (All The Money in the World), Steven Spielberg (The Post), Guillermo Del Toro (The Shape of Water) and Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) because, of course, each of the men nominated are talented in their own right. However, only three of the five films (I’ll let you guess which three) were comparable in review (or audience scores for that matter) to the likes female directed films such as A United Kingdom and Professor Marston & the Wonder Women, or some that many believed to be shoe-ins during awards season like Lady Bird, Mudbound and Wonder Woman.

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Posters for Lady Bird, Mudbound & Wonder Woman (Courtesy of A24, Netflix and Warner Bros.)

Now, whether we enjoy award shows or not, they do provide opportunity and visibility to people in the entertainment industry, and one of the best ways to combat things like gender disparity and other forms of inequality in a workplace is to make sure that the people who are less visible are recognized for their accomplishments and in leadership positions. Simply put, this hasn’t been done.

To me, it is disheartening that female directors – including (but not limited to), Dee Rees, Greta Gerwig and Patty Jenkins, who had three of the best-reviewed, groundbreaking, and highest rated films of the year, did not get a single nod for the work put in on their respective films. Think about it: The HFPA is a group of journalists and critics – critics who typically dictate what films are worth watching based on their reviews – and yet, somehow all of the women listed above and others, were shut out for the Best Director Globe this year. Please, just allow that to sink in.

Perhaps, it alludes to a bigger problem that films directed by women are not getting the same amount of attention, or praise that films directed by men do. If you need any proof, see some of the replies from a tweet I posted during the Golden Globes where most comments automatically jumped to the conclusion that women directors were not worthy of being nominated because their films weren’t good or as good – something that is in direct opposition to the reviews received by many women directed movies in 2017.

For me, it ultimately seems as though the HFPA could have used this opportunity to include and acknowledge some of the female directors who have taken the film industry by storm this year, but unfortunately it did not turn out that way.

Although it might be difficult to comprehend just how or why none of these brilliant women received any kind of acknowledgement from the HFPA for the films they directed, regardless of the snubs, I know that their films were truly a beacon to many this year and surely will be in the years to come. I see you and I thank you all for it!

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Dee Rees (Mudbound), Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman), Amma Asante (A United Kingdom) and Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird)

Below, you can find a small list of some of the films directed by women in 2017 and some coming up in 2018 that you should definitely remember to check out:

2017

  • Mudbound, directed by Dee Rees
  • Lady Bird, directed by Greta Gerwig
  • A United Kingdom, directed by Amma Asante
  • Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins
  • Novitiate, directed by Maggie Betts
  • Everything, Everything, directed by Stella Meghie
  • The Zookeeper’s Wife, directed by Niki Caro
  • Raw, directed by Julia Ducournau
  • Maudie, directed by Aisling Walsh
  • Their Finest, directed by Lone Scherfig
  • Megan Leavey, directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite
  • Detroit, directed by Kathryn Bigelow
  • Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, directed by Angela Robinson
  • Meditation Park, directed by Mina Shum

2018

  • A Wrinkle in Time, directed by Ava DuVernay
  • The Rider, directed by Chloe Zhao
  • Can You Ever Forgive Me, directed by Marielle Heller
  • The Nightingale, directed by Jennifer Kent
  • The Darkest Minds, directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson
  • Mary Queen of Scots, directed by Josie Rourke
  • Destroyer, directed by Karyn Kusama
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