Kathryn Bigelow’s little movie The Hurt Locker is getting the director a lot of attention, and it seems she may become the first of the few women nominated in the Best Director category at the Oscars to actually win the award. So does Kathryn Bigelow actually deserve the award for Best Director at the Oscars, or are is the Academy trying to make up for years of neglecting some of the best female directors in the world in the category?
First of all, there are a few big reasons I think Kathryn Bigelow has a big chance at winning this year. The Oscars could really use another “first” to thrust the show back in the spotlight (think Halle Berry’s big win), and Kathryn Bigelow winning in the Best Director category and making history at the Oscars again would help do just that. The Hurt Locker also has one big sentiment going for it; with so many in Hollywood being anti-war, any movie that shows the horrors of what goes on overseas is going to get a lot of attention. And finally, you’ve got a war movie directed by a woman, making The Hurt Locker and Kathryn Bigelow stand out even more in Academy voters’ minds. So what liberal Hollywood big shot doesn’t want to be able to say that we’ve progressed when it comes to women in the Best Directors category at the Oscars?
I honestly do believe that Kathryn Bigelow deserves to win in the Best Director category for The Hurt Locker, although Best Picture is another story (honestly, if I had to choose, I’d go with Up; it’s a lot more original than either The Hurt Locker or Avatar). But while I’m glad Kathryn Bigelow could become the first of the few women nominated in the Best Director category at the Oscars, I can’t help but be amazed by how much the Academy has left out female directors in the past.
Only three other female directors have been nominated in Best Director category at the Oscars. Italian director Linda Wertmuller was actually also nominated for a war movie, a dark comedy called Seven Beauties about a deserter that tries to seduce his way out of a concentration camp. Her movie also earned a nomination in the Best Foreign Language Film category. The next of the female directors to get a nomination in the Best Director category at the Oscars is probably the most well-known of the group, renowned director Jane Campion, whose movie The Piano, a dark film about a woman’s obsession with her piano and how she’ll do anything to be with it, often finds itself on lists of the best movies of all time. Sofia Coppola, daughter of a man responsible for two of the greatest movies of all time, was finally forgiven for ruining the last movie of The Godfather trilogy with her nomination in the Best Director category for her movie Lost in Translation, a unique love story about two lost souls in Tokyo. Both of these movies were also nominated in the Best Picture category.
So, sadly, very few female directors have been nominated in the Best Director category. Only four other women have had movies nominated in the Best Picture category, but none have won. However, over a dozen female directors have had movies nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category, starting as far back as 1959s Paw, making Astrid Henning-Jensen one of the first female directors to get recognition at the Oscars. And two of the movies nominated that were directed by women in this category actually won (you can read more about the history of female directors at the Oscars and their movies here).
So what does this all mean when it comes to female directors and the Academy Awards? Since women are recognized in the Best Foreign Language Film category, does that mean that there just aren’t that many great American female directors out there? And is a nomination in the Best Foreign Language Film category the Oscars’ way of recognizing the great female directors from elsewhere in the world? I don’t believe the answer to either of these questions is “yes” because looking back on some of the women I consider to be some of the best female directors of all time, Chantal Akerman, Agnes Varda, Larisa Shepitko (who also directed a war movie), and Claire Denis, they have all been shut out of any of the big categories at the Academy Awards (here’s a look at the movies they have directed and more of the women I consider the best female directors of all time). So is the Academy sexist when it comes to the Best Director category? Is this why so many female directors have been left out?
While I do believe the Academy was probably a bit sexist in the Best Director category in the past, I don’t really believe it’s that way today. An equal if not larger number of great male directors don’t get nominated (mostly foreign directors), and, as sad as it is to say, there just seem to be few female directors that make it to the point that Kathryn Bigelow is at, garnering so much critical acclaim. As much as I hate to say it, men have been in charge in Hollywood for many years, and most mainstream movies are directed by men (just look up who directed all the movies in your local theater on any given day, and I guarantee a majority of them will be men). So when it comes to directing, I think seeing how male-heavy this profession is keeps many women from pursuing it. So will Kathryn Bigelow open the door for more female directors in Hollywood and inspire more women to pursue directing? I hope she does pull off the win in the Best Director category because I do think it will help more female directors make it in Hollywood. And I’d love to see Kathryn Bigelow dedicate her award to all the great female directors of the past that should have stood on that stage long before she became the first because they still don’t get enough credit today.