Female directors shut out of DGA Awards, Bigelow Effect looks dim this year


After an award season hailed as historic for its first-time wins for a female director, this season is shaping up to be the Year Without a Woman. Earlier this week, female directors were completely shut out of the Directors Guild Awards despite strong critical acclaim for work by Lisa Cholodenko (The Kids Are All Right) and Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone).


The DGAs are seen as one of the strongest predictors of who will win the Oscar. Only six times since its inception in 1948 has the DGA Award winner not gone on to take home the shiny, naked golden man. This year’s field is yet another sweep for white males: Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), David Fincher (The Social Network), Tom Hopper (King’s Speech), Christopher Nolan (Inception) and David O. Russell (The Fighter). It’s also worth noting that all of those films center on men except for Black Swan, which includes a super hot lesbian scene so guys feel OK watching a movie about two chicks.


Much has been made of the so-called “Bigelow Effect” created by Kathryn Bigelow’s historic win as the first women to ever win an Academy Award. But it seems its immediate impact seems to be more of an echo chamber than a ripple effect.


Indeed, last year’s Oscar race is the anomaly instead of the norm. It was the third times two non-white males were up for the award simultaneously – Bigelow for The Hurt Locker and Lee Daniels for Precious. (The first was 1985 with Akira Kurosawa and Hector Babenco and second in 2003 with Fernando Meirelles and Sofia Coppola.) In the Academy’s entire history only two African Americans, three Latinos, four women and five Asians and have ever been nominated for Best Director. As for winners, only two have been non-white males, total, in its 82-year history – Ang Lee for Brokeback Mountain and Bigelow. That’s not exactly a stellar track record.


So is there still reason to be hopeful for a future Bigelow Effect? I really hope so. While this year is shaping up to be a letdown for awards recognition of talented female directors, it’s still a good thing that two women are in the conversation at all. Many, many years have gone by without a singe viable female director contender. As Melissa Silverstein of the excellent site Women and Hollywood noted after the DGA nominations were announced:

“So while it is bitter pill to swallow after last year and this time no woman will probably get to the finish line as a director, looking at the big picture, and the fact that both these women’s films are in the year end hunt in a big way means that we still are having some forward motion.”


Progress is indeed slow. But perhaps Bigelow’s triumph and the acclaim Cholodenko and Granik are receiving will inspire the next generation of female filmmakers to pick up the camera and push for their projects. All I know is they can’t come soon enough. Cinematical recently did a survey of the films being released in the first half of the year and only three – yes as in one, two, three – are directed by women. We’ve still got a long way to go, baby.

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