Women Behind the Camera


In the 90 years of the Oscars only five women have been nominated for the Best Director Academy Award. Of these five women, Kathryn Bigelow became the first and only female winner for this category in 2010. Although women account for 52% of movie goers, according to a 2016 study done by the Motion Picture Association of America, the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film report that only eight percent of the top 100 grossing films of 2017 were directed by women. In the face of these disparities and the current political climate, it is more important than ever to recognize and appreciate the cinematic work of female directors. Below are four talented women working behind the camera in the hollywood.


Lina Wertmüller

Lina Wertmüller was the first woman to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director at the 1977 Academy Awards. Her nominated film, “Seven Beauties,” she not only directed but also wrote. The film tells the story of an Italian army officer who deserts the Italian army and is soon captured by the German forces. While imprisoned, the story of his family is told through a series of flashbacks. As the first woman nominee, Wertmüller’s impact on the the community of female directors is immensely significant. When speaking to Variety Magazine in 2017, Wertmüller described her experience as a director in the 1970s, when so many women had yet to enter the entertainment industry. “There were social rules that said that the husband brought home his salary, and the wife took care of educating the children and running the household,” Wertmüller said. “I’ve always refused these bourgeois rules, and I went down a different path.”


Greta Gerwig

Greta Gerwig is an American playwright, actor, director and screenwriter. In 2017 she made her solo-directing debut with “Ladybird.” “Ladybird,” which she also wrote, is a coming-of-age film that tells the story of high school senior, Christine McPherson and her tumultuous relationship with her mother. “Ladybird” was so well-received it set records; it beat out “Toy Story 2” for the highest possible rating on the movie critic site Rotten Tomatoes. Gerwig was not only nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director, but also the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Gerwig is a vocal advocate for gender equality within the television and movie industry, and continues to be a trailblazer for women directors. “The women who have been nominated [for Best Director] before me were such an inspiration,” Gerwig said in a recent interview with the Sacramento Bee. “What I hope is that women of all ages say, ‘I want to direct my film.’ I couldn’t be more grateful. I hope it is an inspiration.”


Kathryn Bigelow

Kathryn Bigelow is best known for directing the 2008 war thriller film, “The Hurt Locker,” which was granted the Academy Award for Best Picture and earned her the Academy Award for Best Director. This accomplishment made her the first woman to ever win in the category and a pioneer for other women in her profession. She also directed the political action thriller, “Zero Dark Thirty,” which follows a female operative, played by Jessica Chastain, as she leads the way in the worldwide manhunt for terrorist Osama Bin Laden. “Zero Dark Thirty” was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, cementing Bigelow as a reputable director. Bigelow has never allowed the limitations of her gender to prevent her from pursuing her passions; in an interview with The Tech in 1990, Bigelow was asked about her thoughts on the difficulty of being a female director. “If there’s specific resistance to women making movies, I just choose to ignore that as an obstacle for two reasons: I can’t change my gender, and I refuse to stop making movies, ” Bigelow said.


Ava Duvernay

Ava Duvernay is a well known director famous for her films  “Selma,” “13th,” and the newly released film “A Wrinkle in Time.” Unlike the other women mentioned within this article, Duvernay has not been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director. However, she gained substantial recognition for her film, “Selma,” which was nominated in 2015 for the Academy Award for Best Picture. “Selma” told the story of Martin Luther King Junior, and his historical civil rights protest where he and hundreds of activists marched from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery.  The nomination of this powerful film made her the first female black director to have a film nominated in the category for best picture. Additionally, her documentary “13th,” was nominated in 2017 for the Academy Award for Best Feature Length Documentary. Duvernay remains an advocate for women who want to pursue their passions, regardless of their age, gender or race. Duvernay herself only made her first film when she was 35. When speaking to Cosmopolitan on her unique position as a black female director, Duvernay said she believed she does stand out and is proud to do so. “I think that black people making art, women making art, and certainly black women making art is a disruptive endeavor,” Duvernay said. “And it’s one that I enjoy extremely.”