The Oscar nominations are always a contentious matter and the 2020 awards were no exception. Despite the success of Parasite, once again the awards were criticised for the lack of diversity with #OscarSoWhite trending for another year. Also this year, the 'Best Director' category caused controversy. Despite many of the top movies of the year being directed by women, only men were nominated in the ‘Best Director’ category.
In Oscar history only 5 female filmmakers have been nominated in the category and just one, Kathryn Bigelow, has received the award.
Last year research showed that only 4% of the top 1,200 studio films from the past decade have been directed by women (Screen Daily). British director Georgia Parris observes that: "It's that age-old problem that women are hired on experience and men are hired on potential.”. If women are not being given the opportunity to gain that experience then how is the problem going to change? (BBC). This has lead to the Time's Up #4percentchallenge being started. This challenge asked companies and actors to commit to working with a female director on a feature film in the next 18 months. Companies that have signed up to this include Warner Bros, Amazon and DreamWorks Animation (Screen Daily). Time's Up also claims that movies directed by women are also more inclusive. These films are more inclusive for girls and women, female characters over 40 and racial and ethnic groups, also female directors also hire other women in key behind-the-camera roles (BBC). Hopefully this challenge will allow us to see more women being nominated for prestigious awards in years to come. Female directors also face challenges when they are working. Director Lexi Alexander says that '99% of women working in the film and television industries have experienced sexism.' (Guardian). She references examples such as a driver refusing to drive her because he was told to wait for the director (which was her).
It's also not just men who are discriminating against women. Emma Watson observes that 'women are just as guilty of discriminating against women.' This is because of the unconscious bias that exists against women. A director is seen as a powerful leader and 'just like in the military, they still can’t picture anyone not born with the Y chromosome with that title'. (Guardian). It’s not just behind the camera that women are under-represented. In 2018 male characters dominate the big screen. Only 35% of films include 10 or more female speaking roles, but 82% of movies had at least 10 male characters with speaking roles according to the study, It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World: Portrayals of Female Characters in the Top Grossing Films of 2018 by Dr Martha M. Lauzen. It's clear that things need to change. Many talented women are not being given the opportunities they deserve. However there is hope, people are wising up to the fact that women are underrepresented in films and companies are making changes. This is evident with big movie franchises, such as Wonder Woman, beginning to be directed by women, and with the BFI backing 53% female directors, 53% female producers and 47% female writers with feature film funding. There is still a way to go, but hopefully in the future more women will be placed in front and behind the camera.