Whether the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences want to acknowledge it or not, women are slowly being hired for wider releases and responsible for some of the most engaging pieces of cinema seen in recent years.
For a while, Kathryn Bigelow was the female director of Hollywood (or at least the only one that received any merit). From her Horror Western debut, Near Dark (1987), to her Academy Award winning thriller, The Hurt Locker (2008), Bigelow has proven to be a master of all trades (or at least genres). In many ways, Bigelow has been a pioneer for women behind the camera, leading the path to the light at the end of the tunnel. To this day, Bigelow remains the only woman to win an Academy Award for Directing – a record that I’m sure Bigelow would be more than happy to give up in the near future.
From a similar generation as Bigelow, Jenkins made a splash on the independent film scene, with her hard-hitting biopic Monster (2003), starring an unrecognisable Charlize Theron. The drama received acclaim for it’s unflinching female gaze, with Theron even winning the Academy Award for Best Actress. Then Jenkins disappeared, only direction sporadic episodes in television, before being attached to direct Thor: The Dark World (2012) and subsequently leaving the project over creative differences. Then Wonder Woman (2017) happened. Jenkin’s success led to her becoming one of the highest paid directors, and the hiring of other female directors for blockbuster films, such as Cathy Yan and Chloe Zhao.
Simply put, Gerwig is to independent films what Jenkins is for blockbusters. Primarily an actor and occasional writer during the dawn of her career, Gerwig broke out as the director and writer of the coming-of-age drama-comedy Lady Bird (2017). For the film, Gerwig received Academy nominations for both Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. Henceforth, Gerwig would write-direct last year’s critically and commercially successful Little Women (2019) and acutely represent the voice of our generation. Even actress Olivia Wilde has been following in her footsteps with the criminally underrated Booksmart (2019).
While currently not as well known as the aforementioned directors, Wang is beginning to make a name for herself with last years comedy drama The Farewell (2019). Despite the film being a critical darling, it infamously received no recognition at the 2020 Academy Awards (though Awkwafina did win Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical at the Golden Globes). Nevertheless, it’s the hearts of our generation that choose who gets to speak for us and The Farewell is in no shortage of fans. Wang has proven herself to be a masterful filmmaker, accurately representing the cultures around her while telling a story with universal themes.
In 2014, DuVernay became the first black female director to have her film nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Selma (2014) took an unflinching look at Martin Luther King's 1965 voting-rights march against racial injustice, reminding its audience of the importance of the civil right work that has been done, as well as how far it still needs to go. With this, DuVernay herself has become a trailblazer for women of colour in the cinematic arts. After writing and directing the critically acclaimed miniseries When They See Us (2019), DuVernay has already begun placing her energies towards a New Gods (TBD) film for the DCEU, certifying her own titan-hood in the cinematic field.