Ever since independent filmmaking rose to prominence, filmmakers of various backgrounds began producing non-commercial art ventures. Making a film became accessible to everyone, breaking the norms and barriers of the male-dominant studio system. From students to art-lovers, and post-modernists to all genders, film was made by all.
Female directors began making some out-of-the-ordinary films, breaking societal concepts, the female struggle and emotion, the family and taboos that encircle one. However, these directors, for whatever unprecedented reason, usually go unrecognised, even though critics and audience praise their works.
Below lists some of the female directors and their works that have flown over the praise-worthy radars for awards and/or recognition.
The Golden Globes
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has recently announced its all-male nominations in the Best Director category for Golden Globe Awards 2018. In spite of the massive box office success of Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman,” wide acclaim for Dee Rees’ “Mudbound” and a Best Picture in a Comedy or Musical nomination for Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird,” these female directors were snubbed out of the race.
Gerwig, who has acted in numerous films, scored a best screenplay nomination for her original script in her directorial debut “Lady Bird.” The film was lauded in The New York Times as “a perfect movie.” It has also won a Best Film award from the New York Film Critics Circle and has broken box office records for an indie movie with a release of its size.
Amid the massive sexual harassment scandals that are gripping Hollywood, the push to hire and recognize female directors has intensified as a part of the Academy’s efforts to improve diversity.
Meanwhile, the contenders for Best Director award include Guillermo del Toro for “The Shape of Water,” which has collected the most nominations overall at the Golden Globes this year. Other nominees in the category are Martin McDonagh for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Christopher Nolan for “Dunkirk,” Ridley Scott for “All the Money in the World” and Steven Spielberg for “The Post.”
Spielberg had previously won the Golden Globes for “Saving Private Ryan” and “Schindler’s List.”
Whereas, female nominees over the years in the same category include Kathryn Bigelow in 2009 and 2012, Sofia Coppola in 2003 and Ava DuVernay in 2014. However, the only female director to have won a Golden Globe was Barbra Streisand for “Yentl” in 1984.
On a brighter note, the Golden Globe nominations weren’t all bad news for female directors. Angelina Jolie’s “First They Killed My Father,” which is set in Cambodia and features dialogues in Khmer, French and English, has received a Best Foreign Language Film nomination. Nora Twomey’s “The Breadwinner” will compete in the Best Animated Feature Film category, along with “Loving Vincent,” directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman.
The Academy has so far nominated only four women in the Best Director category in its 90-year span. Lina Wertmüller’s “Seven Beauties,” which was released in 1975, was nominated in 1977 at the Oscars, becoming the first woman to be nominated in the Best Director category at the Academy Awards.
This feat was later matched by Jane Campion for her film “The Piano” (1993) back in 1994 at the Oscars.
Later, Sofia Coppola was nominated in the same category for “Lost in Translation” in 2003, followed by Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker” (2008) in 2010.
After winning the Best Director award, Bigelow became the first woman to ever win an Oscar in the category.
Cannes Film Festival
In May, following the premiere of “The Beguiled,” Sofia Coppola won the Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival. The film is based on the novel of the same name, originally published as “A Painted Devil,” by Thomas P. Cullinan.
Coppola, who won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for “Lost in Translation,” became the second woman to bag the best director award in the 71-year history of Cannes Film Festival.
The first woman to ever receive this award was Russian director Yuliya Solntseva in 1961 for “Chronicle of Flaming Years,” which is her dramatic retelling of grassroots resistance to the Nazi movement in the Soviet Union.
In Bangladesh, the scenario is as gloomy, if not worse. Only one female director has won the Best Director award at the National Film Awards in its 42 years.
The same can also be said in the case of the Meril Prothom Alo Awards too.
The only female director who has won in the Best Director category in both the prestigious awards is Kohinoor Akhtar Shuchanda for “Hajar Bochhor Dhore” in 2005. However, no female director has won the Best TV Director award so far.
Dhaka Tribune’s Showtime talked to Shammem Aktar, a Bangladeshi filmmaker, about why female directors don’t get enough accolades for their hard work.
The “Daughters of History” director spoke of the challenges she personally faced during her film’s production, while also foreseeing a ray of hope for future female directors.
“When we first made parallel digital films, we didn’t have enough technical support and digital projections were not widely available. We could only show our work at special screenings,” she said.
“But now, with bold new directors like Rubaiyat Hossain with films like ‘Under Construction,’ female filmmakers will soon take centre stage.”