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Despite Sarah Polley being snubbed as a director, her film Women Talking was nominated by the Academy for “Best Picture” and “Best Adapted Screenplay.” (Credit: Ross, Flickr)

To quote Issa Rae, who presented the “Best Director” Oscar nominations in 2020, “Congratulations to those men.”

The nominations for the 95th annual Academy Awards have once again failed to include any female directors in the “Best Director” category.

The nominations, released on Jan. 24, include: Todd Field (Tár), Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (Everything Everywhere All at Once), Martin McDonagh (The Banshees of Inisherin), Ruben Östlund (Triangle of Sadness) and Steven Spielberg (The Fabelmans).

This comes as a disappointment to those in the industry who had high hopes for female directors to be recognized by the Academy, especially after the back-to-back wins of directors Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog) in 2022 and Chloé Zhao (Nomadland) in 2021. 

These victories fueled the buzz surrounding the 2023 awards season, with plenty of female directors’ names in the mix for potential nominations. Some of the top contenders were: Chinonye Chukwu (Till), Sarah Polley (Women Talking), Gina Prince-Bythewood (The Woman King), Maria Schrader (She Said), and Charlotte Wells (Aftersun).

“Once again, Academy voters have shown that they don’t value women’s voices,” LA-based advocacy group Women In Film said in a statement. 

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Despite Polley being snubbed as a director, her film Women Talking — which did receive a Critics Choice nomination — was nominated by the Academy for “Best Picture” and “Best Adapted Screenplay.”

Prince-Blythewood’s film The Woman King was also recognized as a nominee by the Critics Choice Awards, as well as the BAFTAs.

Still, this year’s cast of director nominations might be a reflection of a troubling trend in Hollywood. A recent study from the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative revealed the percentage of women and people of color directing the biggest titles at the U.S. box office floundered in 2022, despite reaching a record high in previous years. This suggests the surge of advocacy for representation in Hollywood — including the back-to-back female “Best Director” wins — may have been a  performative response to movements such as Oscars So White, Me Too  and Black Lives Matter

It doesn’t help that the victories of Campion and Zhao were preceded by just one other female win, with Kathryn Bigelow becoming the first female winner ever for The Hurt Locker in 2009. In the almost 100-year history of the Oscars, only 7 women have ever been nominated in the directors category.

Many have argued that the lack of female nominees perpetuates the unequal distribution of power in Hollywood when it comes to funding and opportunities.

“An Academy Award is more than a gold statue, it’s a career accelerator that can lead to continued work and increased compensation,” said Women in Film.

The 95th Oscars ceremony will air live on ABC on March 12 from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

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