As Oscar night approaches and nominations buzz grows louder than ever, it's impossible not to notice the absence of female names being tossed around for major awards like Best Screenplay or Best Director. No female director was nominated for a Golden Globe, and of the frontrunners even being discussed for the Best Director Oscar, there is not one woman. But there were plenty of Oscar-worthy films in 2016 that were directed by ladies, and the seven women below could've been Oscar Best Director contenders. Instead, they were pushed aside.
Despite our increased awareness of the need for diversity both in front of and behind of the camera, the number of female directors in Hollywood is decreasing. The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University found, via Variety, that, of the 250 highest-grossing (domestic) films released in 2016, only seven percent were directed by women. That number is officially down two percent from 2015, which, it should be noted, was the same as in 1998. The fact that so few women get the opportunity to make films, let alone the opportunity to have their films be seen via a good distribution deal, makes what these seven women directors accomplished in 2016 even more impressive.
Kelly Fremon Craig — The Edge Of Seventeen
Fremon Craig's directorial debut, The Edge of Seventeen, is one of the best movies of 2016 — period. It's a beautiful representation of teenage angst, with heroine played with painful accuracy by star Hailee Steinfeld. Fremon Craig also wrote the script, which means a little Oscar recognition could go a long way in advancing female storytellers. Unfortunately, despite Steinfeld's Best Actress in a Comedy Golden Globe nomination, it doesn't look like Fremon Craig will be among the Oscar nominees.
Andrea Arnold — American Honey
Writer-director Arnold is actually already an Oscar winner. She took home a golden statue for Best Live Action Short Film in 2005. And her fourth feature film, American Honey, has already earned her a few nominations and awards — the film won a Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Unfortunately, Oscar buzz for American Honey has been steadily declining since its fall release, and any Oscar hope for Arnold now feels like a long shot.
Rebecca Miller — Maggie's Plan
Maggie's Plan stars Oscar winner Julianne Moore, Oscar nominee Ethan Hawke, and critical darling Greta Gerwig, so it's not so far fetched to think that this little-released independent film would make its way to Academy voters. Miller wrote and directed the film, her fifth in 20 years, which was received well by critics and audiences alike.
Mira Nair — Queen Of Katwe
Queen of Katwe had the misfortune of being released in early fall, just before Oscar season really started heating up, but Nair's film about the true story of Phiona Mutesi, an inspiring chess champion from the slums of Uganda, deserved better.
Kelly Reichardt — Certain Women
Certain Women has earned a lot of love from Film Festivals and independent movie awards, but director Reichardt is nowhere near the shortlist for Best Director at the Oscars. Still, her reputation as a stunning filmmaker continues to grow, and nominations from the Independent Spirit Awards and the Gotham Awards for her work this year could hint at an Oscar in her future.
Karyn Kusama — The Invitation
Horror films aren't known for being huge hits at the Oscars, but Kusama's The Invitation was extremely well-liked by critics, and is just art-house enough to warrant a second look by more traditional Oscar voters. Sadly, it looks like The Invitation will be another female-directed film left behind in the 2017 Oscar race.
Anna Rose Holmer — The Fits
Holmer's The Fits made a big splash when it premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September of 2015, but failed to get a wide release in the US (or, it seems, any kind of release at all). The director, who made her feature debut with this film, was nominated for the Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award at the Gotham Awards, where the film was also up for the Audience Award and Breakthrough Actor for star Royalty Hightower.
And even though Ava DuVernay's 13th was a documentary, she could've certainly earned a Best Director nom, too. Yet since Kathryn Bigelow won the Oscar for Best Director in 2010, there have been no female directors nominated in the category. And, if the 2017 Oscar buzz is any indication, that's not about to change this year. Let's hope the day a woman is once again nominated for Best Director at the Oscars comes sooner rather than later.