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The Oscars Are Snubbing Women Directors Again—and the Next Generation of Filmmakers Is Watching

Women warriors stand in line in a still from The Woman King.

When I was growing up, “film director” was one of the many careers that seemed reserved exclusively for men. Women have been directing films since the beginning of film itself, but directing has still always been dominated by men—so much so that according to the Celluloid Ceiling Report put out by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, only 18% of directors for the top grossing films of 2022 were women.

When I think back to my childhood, I simply don’t remember ever seeing evidence of women directors, and that’s partly due to high-profile events like the Oscars. In the entire history of the Oscars, only seven women have ever been nominated for Best Director—that’s seven, in the Academy Awards’ 95-year history. Of those seven, only three have won: Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker, Chloé Zhao for Nomadland, and Jane Campion for The Power of the Dog. When I got older and began to see more women directors, it felt mind-blowing, like the first time I saw a woman airline pilot or firefighter.

Now, the 2023 Oscar nominees have been announced, and the Best Director nominees are once again all men. Were there no good women directors this year? I can tell you there were plenty: The Woman King director Gina Prince-Bythewood, for instance, or Chinonye Chukwu, director of Till. An all-male list of nominees sends quite a message about whose work is valued and whose isn’t.

After the nominees were announced, Women in Film Los Angeles released a statement slamming the Academy. “Once again, Academy voters have shown that they don’t value women’s voices, shutting us out of the Best Director nominations,” the statement says. “An Academy Award is more than a gold statue, it’s a career accelerator that can lead to continued work and increased compensation.”

These days, my 10-year-old daughter loves making movies with her smartphone camera. She dresses her little sister up in wigs and costumes, transforms their bedroom into a makeshift set, and then uses filters and edits to tell some of the funniest, campiest stories I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. Over the last couple of years, when Zhao and Campion took home the awards for Best Director, I hoped that my daughter would grow up knowing that if she wanted to keep making films, nothing would stop her.

That hope is certainly still alive, but this year’s nominations definitely put a damper on it. There are countless talented women directors out there, but it’s profoundly discouraging that in 2023, they continue to be erased.

(via Variety, featured image: Sony Pictures)

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Julia Glassman (she/her) lives in Los Angeles, where she reads tarot and watches Marvel movies. You can check out more of her writing at linktr.ee/juliaglassman, or find her on Twitter at @juliaglassman.