If approximately 50% of the world’s population is female, why is it that less than 3% of women directors have ever received an Oscar! Since 1929, 95 years of Academy Awards and only seven women have been nominated for best director, and only three winners — Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker” (2009), Chloé Zhao for “Nomadland” (2020) and Jane Campion for “The Power of the Dog” (2021). And in Cannes, France, Jane Campion was the first of two female directors to win the Palme d’Or in 1993; the second being Julia Ducournau who won in 2021! What do these figures tell us about the attitude taken towards female film directors in the west?
Women have been directing films since the beginning of the industry. In 1896 Alice Guy-Blanché made her first film "La Fée aux choux" (The Cabbage Fairy), this was made at the same time as the Lumiere brothers’ "L'Arroseur arrosé". But which one came first is not really known! Guy-Blanché was also the first woman to create and run a film studio.
In more recent times Agnés Varda's films such as "Le Bonheur," "Cléo from 5 to 7" and "Vagabond" are among those listed as essential films from female directors. Varda's work manages to employ realism while experimenting with both form and genre. It also has strong social messages. Varda was the first woman to receive an honorary Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and an honorary Oscar for directing.
In 1926, Fatma Begum became the first female director of Indian cinema with her 1926 film, “Bulbul-e-Paristan”. Nowadays in Bollywood there are many visionary female directors, whose vision and artistic excellence has given them a wide recognition in the industry. Several of them have made a mark on the industry, Sai Paranjpye was the first of 4 women to have won the Filmfare Award for Best Director in 1985, the second being Zoya Akhtar, the third being Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, and the fourth Meghna Gulzar. Over the past decade or so a greater number of Indian women directors are being noticed internationally.
All over our planet female directors, old and new, are adding their view of the world and contributing in many extraordinary ways to the magic of the cinema. Through their work they are trailblazing and encouraging young girls who dream of making movies to follow those dreams and break the stereotype, that in order to direct a film you need to be a man!
‘To deny women directors, as I suspect is happening in the States, is to deny the feminine vision.’
Stephane Cardinal - Corbis/Corbis via Getty images