To date, Ava Duvernay (Selma), Jane Campion (The Piano), Sofia Coppola (Lost In Translation), Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty) and Barbra Streisand (Won Golden Globe for Yentl and nominated for The Prince of Tides) are the only five women in the 77-year history of the Golden Globes have to EVER have been nominated.
When Barbra Streisand directed, starred, wrote and provided the soundtrack for Yentl, she was met with much disdain and backlash similar to the character being portrayed on screen. Ironically, it would be Streisand, as a presenter at the 2010 Academy Awards for Best Director, who would say “…for the first time the winner tonight could be a woman or an African-American (Lee Daniels for ‘Precious’). Turns out that Oscar was awarded to Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker. Many women and African-American filmmakers were left hopeful that the tide had turned for women and people of color to now be taken seriously as viable contributors to the art of cinema. Surely, we surmised, the industry finally recognized and respected women and POC filmmakers as a force to be reckoned with…until today.
With 2019 being a year where a record number of films were being produced, written and/or directed by women, many were hopeful that guild nominations would reflect a change. Needless to say, when the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) announced their nominee list, noticeably absent were Lulu Wang (The Farewell), Greta Gerwig (Little Women – who IS a nominee for Critics Choice), Lorene Scafaria (Hustlers), Alma Har’el (Honey Boy), Melina Matsoukas (Queen & Slim), Chinonye Chukwu (Clemency), Marielle Heller (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Celine Sciamma (Portrait of a Lady on Fire), Joanna Hogg (The Souvenir), Kasi Lemmons (Harriet) and Olivia Wilde (Booksmart). How did this happen? Did anyone see these films? Did they even know that women were the creative forces behind these projects? Did they even care? As a female critic of color, I screened them all and championed these brilliant filmmakers regardless of gender to no avail because their projects were smart, insightful, moving and just great cinema.
Well, when HFPA President Lorenzo Soria was questioned about the issue, much like pouring salt in a wound, he defended the results telling Variety’s Marc Malkin that the organization votes “…based on film not gender.” Yes, we know that every year folks get up in their feelings about somebody somewhere being snubbed on an awards season nomination list. This feels different and it is.
According to Dr. Stacy Smith, founder and director of USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and leader of Time’s Up, “… somewhere between 12% – 14% of the top 100 films this year will have been directed by women.” On the flip side and more positive note, films like Warner Brother’s Joker and Netflix’s The Irishman producer Emma Tillinger Koskoff is the first female producer to be nominated for two movies in the same year.
To say this is bittersweet is a mild understatement. It appears all too often that the progress for women and people of color is consistently at a baby step pace. In December 2018, Women and Hollywood reported that over 50% of the documentaries in the Oscar race were female directed. Yet, only two of the five nominees were directed by women RBG (Julie West and Betsy Cohen) and Free Solo (Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi).
In my humble opinion, the results can only be challenged or changed when the voting body consist of more women and people of color casting a vote. We have to be the change we want to see in politics, on television and in the cinematic landscape. Get involved. Make your voice heard and make your vote count. We are living in an age where the types of stories being told are becoming more diverse and reflective of the society we dwell in. Why can’t that be reflected in who is being honored? Think about it and get back to me.