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Last night's Academy Awards was a historic show as a foreign language film had the biggest night in the history of the Oscars. Parasite won several major awards, including Best Picture, the first-non-English movie to do that. While it was great to see a movie like Parasite get recognized by the Academy, going into the evening the Oscars were, once again, being largely criticized for the way the awards had treated women and people of color, specifically in the Best Director category.
While there were several female directors whose films got nominated for awards last night, the Best Director category was entirely male. However, while the Academy may have chosen not to recognize any female directors, Natalie Portman made a point to do so. The Oscar winning actress actually had the names of eight female directors included into her Oscar attire for the evening. Check out her specially embroidered cape, via L.A. Tmes Amy Kaufman, below.
The eight names on display are Lorene Scafaria, director of Hustlers, Lulu Wang, director of The Farewell, Greta Gerwig, who directed Little Women, Mati Diop who directed Atlantics, Marielle Heller, director of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Melina Matsoukas, behind Queen & Slim, Alma Har’el, who helmed Honey Boy, and Céline Sciamma of Portrait of a Lady on Fire.
These are truly some great directors who made some great movies. Certainly, not all of them could even have been recognized in a category that only has five nominees, but the fact that there were enough women to fill their own category makes the exclusion of every one of them that much more surprising and upsetting.
Natalie Portman has always been outspoken when it comes to the representation of women. When handing out the Best Director award at the 2019 Golden Globes, she made a point to mention the "all male nominees," a line that got a lot of applause. And the actress handed out an award at the Oscars last night as well, so the over looked directors were on stage at the Oscars, if only in spirit.
Greta Gerwig was the director that was the most surprising omission in the Best Director category. The success of Little Women was such that many expected her to be included, but Natalie Portman's quiet statement shows that she certainly wasn't the only great female director who made a worthy movie in 2019.
The first woman nominated for Best Director at the Oscars only received the honor in 1976, and since then only a handful of women have been recognized at all. Only Kathryn Bigelow, who directed The Hurt Locker has ever won the award, back in 2009. Only Greta Gerwig has been nominated since then, for her film Lady Bird in 2017.
There is a lot of work to be done, that much is sure. As long as people like Natalie Portman keep the pressure on and continue to remind people, perhaps the future will be brighter for female directors.