Award season is complete, but what has it taught us? The lack of diversity and lack of female representation was highlighted again and again and it’s getting harder and harder to be wilfully blind to it. Women were still overlooked in so many categories and it feels like the industry is taking a very long time to catch up.
However, there were positives and change is coming. It might feel like a snail’s pace and that some dinosaurs need to go extinct before it can fully happen, but we are getting there – albeit very slowly. The conversations are happening but as Lulu Wang said this week when collecting her Independent Spirit award for Best Picture, ‘there are plenty of women making films – just give them the fricking job!’
It was fantastic to see Bong Joon Ho win the Oscar for Parasite, the first time ever a non-English speaking film won Best Picture, and he deserved it for his truly original cinematic work. But this still didn’t justify overlooking some amazing films directed by women: The Farewell (Lulu Wang), Little Women (Greta Gerwig), Hustlers (Lorene Scafaria), Honey Boy (Alma Har’el), Queen & Slim (Melina Matsoukas), Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Celine Sciamma) and Atlantics (Mati Diop). To see none of these amazing directors honoured was a huge oversight by the academy.
I loved the campaign this year by Give us a Break, the streaming platform where you could watch the Oscar live but during the ad breaks, the ads flipped to showcase female-directed films. There was Natalie Portman who had the names of some of the ignored female directors embroidered into her Dior cape. She looked amazing, but she was making the same point in 2018 when she announced the all male nominees. Chris Rock and Steve Martin joked about the lack of vaginas and the fact that there’s only one black nominee – things had hardly changed since 1929. But it was amazing to see Matthew A Cherry and Karen Rupert Toliver win best animated short film for Hair Love.
It was fantastic to see more films recognised from around the world including Learning to Skateboard in a War Zone (if you’re a girl), a fantastic win for directors Carol Dysinger and Elena Andreicheva. It was also amazing to see For Sama nominated as it is such an important story about Syria and hopefully through more recognition, can bring about change. It was also a great moment to see Taika Waititi dedicate his Oscar to the indigenous children of the world.
The composer Hildur Guðnadóttir also won, the first female Oscar score winner in 23 years. In accepting her award she said, ‘to the girls, to the women, to the mothers, to the daughters, who hear the music bubbling within, please speak up. We need to hear your voices.’ And more voices are joining her including Joaquin Phoenix who used his speech both at the BAFTAS and the Oscars to highlight the lack of representation problem, acknowledging he is part of the problem.
There’s so much support now and more and more people are willing to speak out against the obvious prejudice. For my film That Girl, Peugeot (produced by MsMono) we have EMMA scoring the music, a female cinematographer in Emma Dalesman and female editor Elena Carmen. The crew was also over 50:50. MsMono are trying through our work, through the films we choose to see at the cinema and through championing others to even the balance. No-one gets out of here alive. We’re not free until we’re all free. Let’s celebrate each other. Each and every one of us.