It took 93 years for more than one woman to be nominated for the Best Director Oscar in the same year.
On Monday, “Nomadland” director Chloé Zhao and “Promising Young Woman” director Emerald Fennell did just that, joining the very short list of women to be nominated for Best Director in the history of the Academy Awards.
Only one woman has ever won the award: Kathryn Bigelow for 2009′s “The Hurt Locker.” Before Monday, just four others had ever been nominated: Lina Wertmüller, Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola and Greta Gerwig.
Zhao also made history as the first woman of color and first Asian woman ever nominated in the category. “Nomadland” dominated the Oscar nominations, scoring six, including four for Zhao herself (in addition to Best Director, she was nominated for producing, writing and editing the film). “Promising Young Woman” received five nominations, including three for Fennell herself (directing, writing and producing).
For many years, the Oscars have failed to recognize the work of female directors, despite a wealth of acclaimed films directed by women. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has faced increasing criticism. Last year, for example, actor and TV creator Issa Rae snarkily said: “Congratulations to those men,” when announcing the slate of Best Director nominees, all of them men.
While it’s encouraging to see Zhao and Fennell get their due, it’s bittersweet that one notable omission in this year’s Best Director category was “One Night in Miami” director Regina King, who would have been the first Black woman nominated in the category. In a year with plenty of formidable movies by Black filmmakers, with many of their films scoring Oscar nominations, the academy’s failure to recognize more Black directors is particularly galling, given the awards body’s very public reckoning with diversity in recent years.