Women filmmakers snubbed at Oscars as gender disparity persists

Global Business

The 91st Academy Awards are set to take place in Hollywood this Sunday, but once again, it’s being criticized for shutting out a very prominent demographic – female directors. Not one woman was nominated for best director this year.

CGTN’s May Lee takes a look at this on-going issue plaguing Hollywood.

When the 2019 Oscar nominations were announced, you could almost hear a collective outcry from female directors in Hollywood saying, “here we go again.”

Not one woman was nominated for best director, even though numerous critically acclaimed movies in 2018 were directed by women, including Marielle Heller for “Can You Ever Forgive me” and Chloe Zhao for “The Rider”.

Only five women have ever been nominated for best director and just one, Kathryn Bigelow, has actually won…that’s right, just one woman in 91 years.

Independent filmmaker Renee Tajima-Pena says, “Because of gender politics and racial politics, because women and people of color are marginalized in the entertainment industry, and almost every other industry, we just don’t get recognized.”

Tajima-Pena has been an award-winning documentary filmmaker for more than 40 years. In 1988, her documentary feature, “Who Killed Vincent Chin” was nominated for an Academy Award and in that same year, two other women of color, Mira Nair and Lise Yasui, were nominated in different categories.

“So we thought, oh wow this is the wave of the future and then decades after that, nada, nothing happens.”

Award-winning filmmaker Grace Lee has been making feature films and documentaries for decades and instead of being at the mercy of big studios, Lee chose the independent route, which has given her more freedom and control.

“I went to film school in Los Angeles and I saw classmates before me wait years to make their first feature, and documentary is something that I had worked in before and I can do that, like now, I don’t need to wait or I don’t need to wait for someone to give me permission, I’ve never waited for permission,” Lee said.

Because of that freedom, the indie and documentary world produce more opportunities for women. There are female Oscar nominees in both the documentary feature and short categories this year whereas directing, cinematography, editing, original score and visual effects…women were completely shut out.

“I got into film making because I wanted to see films featuring people of color, women, Asian-Americans, images that I’ve never seen before,” Lee said. “That’s why I’m in it and that’s why I’m going to continue to make those kinds of projects.”

Imani Cheers on staggering low numbers of women in film production

CGTN’s Rachelle Akuffo spoke with Imani Cheers from George Washington University’s media and public affairs school about efforts to reverse gender parity in movie production.