Though the awards season officially kicked off last week with the announcement of the 76th Golden Globe nominations, it’s unfortunate, albeit not surprising, that the list of nominated directors didn’t include women.
It’s not the first time women directors have been snubbed for the category.
The last female director to be nominated by the Hollywood Foreign Press in 2014 was Ava DuVernay, for her MLK biopic, Selma. In fact, the last time a woman won the category for Best Director was 34 years ago.
With all that being said, here is a list of female directors whose films this year deserve recognition.
On the Basis of Sex (Directed by Mimi Leder)
Leder’s biopic on Ruth Bader Ginsburg is timely given that Associate Justice of the Supreme Court has become a feminist icon for another generation of women. I mean, she has been nicknamed ‘Notorious RBG,’ by the leftist millennial demographic.
Plus, since women’s reproductive rights are increasingly under threat with the conservative stance of the current administration’s, it is important to spotlight the life and career of a woman who has worked tirelessly to prevent gender discrimination.
The film emphasizes that even before her appointment to the Supreme Court, RBG has been a pioneering force in gender equality law.
Leder is a frequent director on the HBO drama series The Leftovers as well as serving as an executive producer to the series. The industry veteran is also set to direct and serve as an executive producer to Apple’s morning show series that will star Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, and Steve Carrel.
The 65-year-old helmed the box-office science-fiction hit Deep Impact. But the commercial failure of the film, Pay It Foward that Leder directed sidelined the filmmaker’s movie career.
It was TV and the storytelling renaissance to come out of the small screen in the past two decades that provided the creative avenue that Leder needed — which has often been the case for many female directors.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post (Directed by Desiree Akhavan)
Set in the 1990s, The Miseducation of Cameron Post follows the story of a young teenager who after being caught in the backseat of a car with the prom queen, is sent to a gay conversion camp, called God’s Promise. Though she subjected to questionable “reparative” therapy techniques, she bonds with some fellow residents as they pretend to go along with the process while waiting to be released.
But it’s been a busy year for Akhavan. In addition to the release of The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Akhavan released her series The Bisexual, which she wrote, produced, and starred in. As evident by the title, the series tackles the subject of bisexuality and how this sexual identity is a taboo both within and outside of the LGBTQIA community. The show is now available to stream on Hulu and is definitely worth checking out.
Akhavan is a director, producer, screenwriter, and actress based in New York. She is best known for her 2014 feature film debut Appropriate Behavior.
The Kindergarten Teacher (Directed by Sara Colangelo)
In Colangelo’s film, audiences watch a kindergarten teacher go to extraordinary and somewhat problematic lengths to shepherd the talent of her student who she deems a child prodigy. Written and directed by Colangelo, the tense narrative explores the power dynamics that are embedded in being a teacher and mentor.
Speaking to Women And Hollywood on the Netflix film, Colangelo stated, “For me, this story is, above all, about a woman’s awakening to art, and her well-intentioned but twisted journey to deliver a young poet to the world. I’d like people to wonder whether Lisa Spinelli may have been right all along.”
A graduate of NYU, Colangelo is a New York-based writer and director whose short films have screened at festivals around the world, including Sundance, Tribeca, and SXSW.
Colangelo’s debut feature, Little Accidents, had its world premiere at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and was subsequently nominated for a 2015 Independent Spirit Award.
On Her Shoulders (Directed by Alexandria Bombach)
Bombach’s powerful documentary chronicles the tireless activism of 23-year-old Nadia Murad, who after testifying before the United Nations on the 2014 genocide of the Yazidis in Northern Iraq, has carried the hopes of her people to bring attention to the issues and war crimes that have plagued the region.
As implied in the documentary’s title, On Her Shoulders, reveals the burden that comes with Murad sharing her story and exposes the tension in Murad’s passion to instill change while also recovering from the trauma she has experienced and live an ordinary life.
Originally from Santa Fe, New Mexico is an award-winning cinematographer, editor, and director. On Her Shoulders premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival where Bombach won Best Directing in the US Doc. Competition.
Her first feature-length documentary, FRAME BY FRAME, had its world premiere at SXSW 2015, went on to win more than 25 film festival awards. The film follows the lives of four Afghan photojournalists who are facing the realities of building Afghanistan’s first free press.
Private Life (Directed by Tamara Jenkins)
Netflix film, Private Lives, about a couple trying to get pregnant through IVF. The couple has to grapple with the emotional toll that comes with encountering a series of setbacks and disappointments.
Undergoing IVF herself, the filmmaker was inspired to write about her experiences and explore the discourse surrounding the topic.
There is a level of authenticity that exudes out of the film. Private Lives exposes the irony in how conceiving a child is a private act but in cases of IVF, that privacy is stripped away and is instead subject to outside scrutiny from friends and family and invasive doctor’s appointments.
Speaking on her personal experiences with IVF with Robert Ebert.com, Jenkins relayed,
“Many people I know, because of the nature of their lives, delayed having kids because of work and the kind of careers they had. Then [they] found themselves later pursuing parenthood. So I realized that it wasn’t my singular problem. I was being given permission to explore the subject beyond the things that the story of my own. You go to those waiting rooms and you look around and you’re definitely not the only one.”
Private Life is Jenkins’ first film since Savages, which she also wrote and directed.
Destroyer (Directed by Karen Kusama)
Though a lot of media coverage on Kusama’s latest film is centered on the physical transformation of the movie star, Nicole Kidman, Kusuma’s directing and the film’s riveting storyline is worthy of more attention.
Destroyer centers on the story of a burnt-out and troubled police detective who reconnects with people from an old undercover assignment as part of her personal project of reckoning with her past.
Destroyer is Kusama’s fifth feature film and in speaking on her latest film, Kusama described to The Awardist,
“What inspired me to do [the film] was the notion of how difficult it is to be accountable for our mistakes and how painful a process that can be.”
Given that most of Kusama’s films center around women behaving “badly”, in speaking to SYFY, the filmmaker was asked what attracts her this portrayal of women, to which she explained,
“I’m interested in a more dimensional understanding of female experience and of human experience. I think what that generally entails is working with more ambiguity, more mystery, more difficult feelings for your characters, and difficult people on screen.”
Kusama is known for helming the horror film, Jennifer’s Body and the film Girlfight, a coming-of-age drama that launched the career of actress, Michelle Rodriguez.
You Were Never Really Here (Directed by Lynne Ramsay)
Dubbed as the 21st-century Taxi Driver, Ramsay’s pulsating drama tracks the life of brutal hitman who on the trail of finding a missing teenage girl, uncovers a web of corruption and abuse of power along his way.
The crime thriller earned rave reviews at the Cannes Film Festival last year. Plus, it also won the filmmaker a prize for screenwriting.
Lynne Ramsay is a bad-ass Scottish film director, writer, producer, and cinematographer. All of Ramsay’s feature films, Ratcatcher, Morvern Callar and We Need to Talk About Kevin have garnered awards and rave reviews.
We can attribute Ramsay not being a more well-known name not as a consequence of her Scottish origins but because of the age-old-tale of Hollywood blacklisting female directors for supposedly being “difficult.” In other words, for women having an opinion.
Anyways, let’s hope that the rave reception of this film and/or Joaquin Pheonix’s performance will enable Ramsay to no longer be blacklisted by Hollywood — especially in light of the cultural shakeup that has occurred within the industry with the emergence of the #MeToo movement and Times Up campaign.
Night Comes On (Directed by Jordana Spiro)
On the eve of her 18th birthday, Angel LaMere a young Black queer woman is released from serving time in a juvenile detention facility. Haunted by her past, she embarks on a journey of retribution for her mother that threatens to destroy her future.
After premiering at the Sundance Film Festival this year, Spiro’s first feature film is a visual declaration of her talent as a filmmaker and powerful storyteller.
Spiro co-wrote the script with Angelica Nwandu. In an interview with ET, the filmmaker spoke on the importance of spotlighting marginalized voices and stories, noting,
“I volunteered for many years in the Foster System, and I got to see firsthand how broken the system is, how difficult it is, for these young people to age out of the system, and how very tied their hands are when they’re trying to move forward in their life. [I saw] how stigmatized they are [and] just how enormous the challenge is for them. I wanted to bring some attention to that, and I also wanted to point out the universality of this story, that at the end of the day, it’s really about a person who is trying to find their place in the world, which is something that we can all identify with.”
Jordana Spiro is also an actress that has starred in numerous films and television series including Netflix’s, Ozark and TBS comedy television program, My Boys.