In recent years, especially since #MeToo, the Oscars have been the occasion for vibrant speeches on female empowerment and the fight of women to find a place in Hollywood. But it is clear that these speeches have, for the moment, not really had any effect on appointments.
In 2020, of the nine feature films nominated in the “best film” category, only one was made by a woman. They are the "Daughters of Doctor March" by Greta Gerwig. For the Oscar for best director, it's worse: no woman named. Only one woman was also selected in the category of "best original scenario" (against six men).
One woman voted best director
Is this a bad year, an exception? Not really ! In the past decade, only two women have been named to the Oscar for Best Director. There have been five since the creation of this prestigious award. Only one won the statuette in this category in 92 ceremonies: Kathryn Bigelow for "Minesweepers". It was 10 years ago.
For Célia Sauvage, doctor of cinematographic and audiovisual studies, this problem of the representativeness of women is partly linked to the lack of diversity within the Academy of Oscars. “In 2012, 94% of voters were white, including 77% of men, on average 62 years old! ", She exclaims. They are the ones who vote for the films that will be named in each category.
Since 2017, the proportion has been a little less overwhelming: the Academy now has 68% men, according to Célia Sauvage. But the ratio of nominations for the Oscar for best director remains enormous: “Only 5 nominations for female directors for almost 450 nominations for female directors! The gap is terrifying. ”
According to the researcher, the absence of female appointments is also symptomatic of the lack of women in the Hollywood industrial landscape. In summary: since there are fewer female directors, this disproportion is therefore found in the appointments.
Women struggle to make space in Hollywood
Women are particularly underrepresented in big budget productions in Hollywood. "In 1999, 9% of the 250 biggest box office successes were achieved by women against 7% in 2016", illustrates Célia Sauvage. A kind of vicious circle: "Few films made by a woman triumph at the box office, so little investment on the part of chilly producers," she explains. However, studies prove it: for the same budget, films made by women are no less profitable ”.
Among the nominees for the Oscars in 2020, in the categories "best director" and "best film", many are big budget films: "Once upon a time ... in Hollywood", "Joker" or "1917".
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But why do women struggle to find their place in the film industry? "At all levels of production and reception of works, men are overrepresented: writing, filming crews, production, distribution, press, selection committee for festivals and award ceremonies," explains Célia Sauvage. Naturally and perhaps unconsciously, they first produce projects that attract their attention and satisfy their artistic sensitivity. ”
The directors therefore come up against a glass ceiling, which translates into facts by two very concrete discriminations. First, they receive a salary "radically lower than their male colleagues", according to the researcher.
Then, the directors struggle to make a second film. "Many young premieres take control of a blockbuster from their second or third film and will continue their careers in Hollywood," continues Célia Sauvages. Women, on the other hand, fight harder to make a second film and even more to get the head of a blockbuster. ” Studies show that 80% of women directors working during the decade have made only one film compared to 55% for men.
No double nomination for women
The Academy of Oscars is therefore not the only one to blame for the few female nominations. However, the cinematography researcher believes that its members could make the political choice to promote films made by women.
According to Célia Sauvage, another “anomaly” strikes women: “None of the directors named has obtained more than one nomination”. And to quote Kathryn Bigelow, who won the Oscar for best director in 2010 for "Minesweepers" and who was not named in this category in 2013 for "Zero Dark Thirty" when the film was among the nominees for the Oscar for best film. Sofia Coppola, nominated for the Oscar for best director in 2003 for "Lost in Translation" was not nominated for "Les Proies" in 2017 when the film received the Prize for Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival. And there are many examples.
Conversely, films made by men are very often named both in the category "best film" and "best director", the two most prestigious Oscars. It has even happened that a director is twice nominated for the Oscar for best director, for two different films, like Steven Soderbergh, in 2001. This year, the five nominated for the Oscar for best director also see their film compete for the Oscar for best film. As for the film “The Daughters of Doctor March”, the only one directed by a woman named in the “best film” category, it is far from being the favorite to win the statuette.