The 2019 Academy Awards was a great night for women – all women. With the #OscarsSoWhite campaign feeling a long way behind us, it was truly remarkable to see such diverse women being honoured.
The night saw an incredible first as Hannah Belcher was not only the first black woman to win an Oscar for Production Design, she was also the first black women to ever be nominated in the category for her work on the film Black Panther. Ruth E Carter won the award for Best Costume Design also for her work on Black Panther and after being previously nominated for Malcolm X and Amistad. Hannah and Ruth are two of only three black women in the entire history of the Oscars to win an award outside of the acting category.
Chinese-American filmmaker Elizabeth Chai and her co-director Jimmy Chin, won the award for Best Documentary for their film Free Solo about rock climber Alex Honnold and his quest to perform a free solo climb in June 2017. The Best Animated Short went to Chinese-Canadian filmmaker Domee Shi for her film Bao which was screened in cinemas before the 2018 Pixar film The Incredibles 2. A film about periods also won an Oscar which is arguably, one of the greatest indicators of the audience for female-centred stories. The Netflix film Period: End of a Sentence by Iranian-American director Rayka Zehtabch won the Best Documentary Short and depicts how millions of girls in rural India have to drop out of school when they reach puberty, because of period taboos.
The supreme talent and stunning beauty that is Regina King won Best Supporting Actress for her role in If Beale Street Could Talk after winning the Golden Globe in the same category. The actress used her acceptance speech to thank her mother who was with her at the ceremony. “I am an example of what it looks like when support and love is poured into someone. Mum, I love you so much…thank you for teaching my that God has been leaning and is always leaning in my direction.”
Another memorable, emotional and hilarious acceptance speech was when Olivia Coleman collected the Oscar for Best Actress for her role in The Favourite. It took her a moment to get to the stage after being kissed and congratulated by her husband, co-star Emily Stone and director Yorgos Lanthimos. ‘It’s genuinely quite stressful. This is hilarious, I’ve got an Oscar!’ she remarked through tears. ‘To any little girl who is practising her speech on the telly – you never know’. Lady Gaga also picked up the award for Best Original Song for Shallow from the film A Star is Born and she became the first person (male or female) to win an Oscar, Grammy, BAFTA and Golden Globe in a single year.
At a time when the battle for female equality often seems to be split into different camps and tribes it was both encouraging and inspirational to see women from all walks of life being recognised and celebrated for their achievements in film.