Yet, she was not the only female director behind a critically acclaimed film who went overlooked.
Outcry over women not receiving individual Oscar recognition for their work as directors has been longstanding. In the nearly 100-year history of the Academy Awards, women have won best director only three times, Chloé Zhao for “Nomadland,” Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker,” and Jane Campion for “The Power of the Dog.”
Justine Triet was the only woman nominated in the top directing category this year for “Anatomy of a Fall.”
The more than 500 members of the Directors branch of the Academy, predominately male despite efforts to increase diversity in recent years, vote to select the nominees in the best director category. The branch has a historically favored directors of dramas over satire or comedy.
Director Ava DuVernay and her powerful film “Origin” should have favored well by that measure. The film has been stirring buzz not just DuVernay’s direction, but also its star Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor, whom many have said gave the performance of her career in the movie inspired by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson’s book, “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.”
“Origin” did not receive any Oscar nominations.
Celine Song was also not nominated in the directing category for “Past Lives,” despite her film being among the 10 best picture nominees. Overall, three of the best picture nominated films were directed by women this year, a record. (“Barbie” and “Anatomy of a Fall” joining “Past Lives in the category.)
Song, like Gerwig, however, was nominated in a writing category, scoring a nod for best original screenplay.
Kirsten Schaffer, the chief executive officer of Women in Film, a non-profit organization that advocates for women working in screen industries, released a statement to CNN about the omissions of Gerwig and Song.
“While we are thrilled to see a record number of films by women nominated in the Best Picture category, it is disappointing to see that the women at the helm of both Barbie and Past Lives were disregarded in both directing and lead performances, ” Schaffer said. “The industry often takes women’s work for granted, and even the women behind the highest grossing film of the year or most critically beloved are not exempt.”
Earlier this month, a new report from the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California examined the top-grossing fictional films from 2007 to 2023 to assess the opportunities for women and underrepresented directors.
The study found no major gains for women in 2023, despite Gerwig’s groundbreaking success with “Barbie.”
“Of the 116 directors evaluated in 2023, 12.1% were women. Across all 17 years and 1,769 directors, 6% were women,” the report states. “There has been an increase from 2007, when the percentage of women helmers was 2.7%. Yet there’s little to celebrate, given that in 2022, 9% of top box office directors were women.”
Associate Professor of Communication Stacy L. Smith, who authored the study, said in a statement at the time of its release, “Over more than a decade and a half, the percentage of women in top directing jobs has not even grown by 10 percentage points.”
“These figures are not merely data points on a chart,” Smith said. “They represent real, talented women working to have sustainable careers in an industry that will not hire them into jobs they are qualified to hold solely because of their identity.”
Further evidence that not much has changed since 2020, when actress Issa Rae quipped as while announcing the Oscar nominations for best director, “Congratulations to those men” as a nod to the lack of women nominees that year.
CNN’s Elizabeth Wagmeister and Sandra Gonzalez contributed to this report
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