This year’s Oscars made history for awarding best picture to a non-English language film, the riveting Parasite directed by Bong Joon-ho, for the first time. But to no surprise, it once again lacked in its attention to female directors. Greta Gerwig’s touching revamp of Little Women was nominated for best picture. However, it was snubbed in the director category. Other than awards in the documentary medium, there was an underwhelming lack of female directorial praise at the 2020 academy awards. From Janelle Monae’s tribute to the “phenomenal films” directed by women in her opening musical number to Natalie Portman’s red carpet gown embroidered with the names of female directors, this year’s attendees did not let the lack of diversity go unnoticed. 

Janelle Monae’s Musical Performance at the 2020 Academy Awards

The New York Times reported that “12 of the 113 directors on last year’s 100 top movies were women, a historic high,” meaning that an abysmal 10% of 2019’s most popular films were directed by women. With 10% as a historic high, Hollywood has some work to do. With 15% as the metric for female directors hired by all major studios, the picture is not much brighter, especially with the data being proportionally smaller for women of color (and that is a gross understatement!). The Times reported that less than 1% of the 1300 films in Annenberg’s study were directed by women of color. However, it is noted that many of this year’s most anticipated films are directed by women, including Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Women 1984 with art haus directors like Sciamma herself expressing praise for the first film of the franchise. 

There is considerable evidence that Hollywood is on track for more female inclusion, even if at a horrifically slow rate. Big box office hits like Captain Marvel, Hustlers, and more gained much audience approval, even if not by the critics. Further, indie film production has seen hoards of talented women throughout the years, including the likes of Andrea Arnold, Lynn Ramsey, and Sofia Coppola, who is also set to make a new film for A24, On the Rocks.  However, we cannot ignore the impact these French women have made this year, and question whether the Hollywood system needs a revamp. Whether green-lit projects turn to acceptance on the French system of screenplay alone is up to debate, but it is necessary that their impact on the festival circuit this year is not just a historic moment, but a process.

Female directors featured at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival

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