Déjà vu: 2020 Oscar nominations ignore female directors once again

Director Greta Gerwig at Louisa May Alcott's Orchard House in Concord, Mass.
Greta Gerwig, shown at Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House in Concord, Mass., was snubbed in the directing category.
(Aram Boghosian / For The Times)

The 2020 Oscar nominations for best director were announced Monday morning, with all five slots going to an all-male field of nominees — again.

Much like this year’s Golden Globes field and the Directors Guild of America’s top feature award, which both nominated zero women in the directing category, the Academy Awards yet again shut out female helmers from one of its top prizes.

The five directing nominees for the 2020 Oscars are Bong Joon Ho (“Parasite”), Sam Mendes (“1917”), Todd Phillips (“Joker”), Martin Scorsese (“The Irishman”) and Quentin Tarantino (“Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood”).


Going into the award ceremony’s 92nd edition, only five women in history have been nominated for the director Oscar. Lina Wertmüller was the first to receive the honor, for 1976’s “Seven Beauties.” Then came Jane Campion in 1993, for “The Piano.” Sofia Coppola notched a nomination for 2003’s “Lost in Translation.” Kathryn Bigelow earned a nod for 2009’s “The Hurt Locker,” becoming the only female winner in history in the directing category.

Greta Gerwig was the most recent female helmer to score a directing nomination, for her 2017 debut “Lady Bird.” She reteamed this awards season with that picture’s star, Saoirse Ronan, for her critically acclaimed ensemble adaptation “Little Women,” garnering wide praise, rave reviews, and a $107-million worldwide box office take to date.

But awards insiders reported that the film was not being seen by many male academy voters. And though Gerwig was viewed as the most likely female director to land a nomination this year, her snub means that no woman has ever been nominated twice in the directing category. (In contrast, Barbra Streisand has been nominated for two directing Golden Globes, for “Yentl” and “The Prince of Tides,” and Kathryn Bigelow was nominated for two DGA awards, for “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty.”)

Even more glaring: the fact that 2019’s crop of contending films included a strong showing of disparate titles directed by women, including but not limited to Lulu Wang’s “The Farewell,” Marielle Heller’s “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” Lorene Scafaria’s “Hustlers,” Kasi Lemmons’ “Harriet,” Mati Diop’s “Atlantics,” Céline Sciamma’s “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” Chinonye Chukwu’s “Clemency,” Alma Har’el’s “Honey Boy,” Olivia Wilde’s “Booksmart,” Joanna Hogg’s “The Souvenir” and Jennifer Kent’s “The Nightingale.”

Those 11 films netted a total of three nominations: “Harriet” for actress in a leading role, Cynthia Erivo, and original song, “Stand Up”; and “Beautiful Day’s” Tom Hanks for supporting actor.

According to a recent report by USC Annenberg’s Inclusion Initiative, a dozen women directed some of the 100 top-grossing films in 2019, representing 10.6% of all directors. That number was up from 4.5% of directors in the same category in 2018, and the highest percentage since the study began in 2007.


“Recognition from peers and other industry members can provide a critical boost to a director’s career,” the study noted. “The public prominence that can result from a high-profile nomination can also create new role models for aspiring filmmakers or students. Although award recognition comes at the end of a film’s production, the decisions made by notable organizations offer insight into the mental models these groups hold about what it means to be successful, talented, or excellent as a director.”

Gerwig’s “Little Women” notched six Oscar nominations including best picture, lead actress for Saoirse Ronan, supporting actress for Florence Pugh, costume design and original score. Gerwig earned a screenplay nod for adapting Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel to the screen.

Female directors fared better in the nonfiction category. Macedonian documentary “Honeyland,” co-directed by Tamara Kotevska with Ljubomir Stefanov, earned nominations for best international feature and documentary.

Also in the documentary category, “American Factory,” co-directed by Julia Reichert with Steven Bognar, earned an Oscar nod, as did Petra Costa’s “The Edge of Democracy,” and “For Sama” co-director and subject Waad Al-Khateab earned nominations.