OSCARS DOING BARE MINIMUM. IN 94-YEAR history of awards, only two female directors have won statuette.

BONN GERMANY : ''Well the time has come,'' proclaimed Barbara Streisand as she read the envelope containing the name of the 2010 Oscar for best director. For the first time in the then 81-year history of the Academy Awards, a woman had won best director, one of the most important categories.

A surprised Kathryn Bigelow beat James Cameron and Quentin Tarantino with her film The Hurt Locker to pick up the coveted award.

At the time there had only been four female directors nominated in the category : Bigelow was preceded by Lina Wertmuller [1977], Jane Campion [1994] and Sofia Coppola [2004], according to DW.

The 2021 Academy Awards marked another first in the history of the Oscars, as two women Chloe Zhao and Emerald Fennell - were nominated for the best director in the same year, with Zhao winning the award for Nomadland.

Another precedent was set this year, with Campion becoming the first woman to be nominated for the second time as best director.


''I hesitate to call this progress,'' says Martha Lauzen, director at the Center for the Study of Women in Television & Filmat San Diego State University. ''I think it would be more apt to characterise it as surrendering to sustained objections ...... that something is seriously amiss when, year after year, no women are nominated.

''The Academy's routine exclusion of women in one of its most prestigious categories was simply no longer sustainable or justifiable,'' she added.


Step by step, women are entering the male-dominated areas of the film industry.  

However, according to the current Celluloid Ceiling Report, which has been published annually for the past 24 years and examines the employment of women in the 250 top-grossing US films, progress is very slow and is sometimes stalled.

After reaching an all-time high in 2020, the proportion of female directors who helmed the top 250 top and top 100 films has declined in 2021. The share of women who directed the 250 best films fell from 18% in 2020 to 17% in 2021, and the proportion of female directors for the top 100 films dropped from 16% to 12%.

Women are also severely underrepresented in other film professions : In 2021, 94% of the top 250 US films were made without female cinematographers, 92% of them without female composers, 82% without female directors, 73% without female editors, and 72% without female screenwriters.

''The Academy does not exist in a vacuum. It reflects the attitudes, predispositions and biases of the large mainstream film community,'' said Lauzen. The biases disadvantaging women include the ''unfounded beliefs that women lack the necessary vision and drive to helm major studio features, and are uninterested in directing such features,'' she added.

The researcher also notes that while studios and investors are happy to ''bet big'' on male directorial up-and-comers, they typically regard promising women directors as ''risky hires.''

Lauzen believes this bias advantaged for example filmmaker Colin Trevorrow, who was signed on to helm Jurassic World [2015] after directing s single independent feature, Safety Not Guaranteed [2012]

''As the story goes, Trevorrow reminded Steven Spielberg of his younger self, and he hired him for the job,'' she said. ''Spielberg was willing to take a chance on a relatively unproven director,'' Lauzen added. ''Women who direct are much less likely to benefit from this sort of implicit bias.''


In recent years, the lack of diversity in Hollywood's highest film awards has been in spotlight, with hashtags such as  OscarSoMale and #OscarsSoWhite condemning the marginalisation of female and minority filmmaking talent.

Diversity has long been a popular buzzword in the film scene, but actual reforms in the Academy were made in reaction to the  MeToo and  Black Lives Matter movements.

The number of women on the Board of Governors was increased from 26 to 31, out of a total of 54 members.

Reforms were also announced in the best film category. To be nominated, films must meet at least two of four diversity benchmarks, which include featuring actors from underrepresented groups in lead roles or at least 30% of the cast. Similar criteria apply in the production and creative teams.

The topic of the film also receives diversity points when the story centers on women, LGTBQ people, minority groups or the disabled. The Academy is also searching for ways to open the awards ceremony to the public due to a drastic drop in viewer numbers.

Only around 10 million people watched last year's event - less than half of the TV viewers of 2020. Now the organisers of the Oscars have introduced an audience award that film fans can vote for on the Internet.

The World Students Society thanks DW.


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