But how surprising was this really when you consider that of the 421 nominees for Best Director over the 86 years of the Academy Award, only four have been women. And of this quartet — Lina Wertmuller (“Seven Beauties,” 1976), Jane Campion (“The Piano,” 1993), Sofia Coppola (“Lost in Translation”) and Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker,” 2009) — only the latter prevailed.
And even with that Oscar win to her name, Bigelow was the most recent member of a different group of women that DuVernay now joins: directors who were overlooked despite their films contending for the top Oscar.
In the years when there were only five Best Picture nominees, four women were so shut out:
1. Randa Haines for “Children of a Lesser God” (1986)
Her film lost Best Picture to “Platoon,” whose director Oliver Stone also won.
2. Penny Marshall for “Awakenings” (1990)
Her film lost Best Picture to “Dances with Wolves,” whose director Kevin Costner also won.
3. Barbra Streisand for “Prince of Tides” (1991)
Her film lost Best Picture to “Silence of the Lambs,” whose director Jonathan Demme also won.
4. Valerie Faris (co-director with Jonathan Dayton) for “Little Miss Sunshine” (2007)
Her film lost Best Picture to “The Departed,” whose director Martin Scorsese also won.
In the three years that the academy expanded the Best Picture race to 10, three women were so snubbed:
5. Lone Scherfig for “An Education” (2009)
Her film lost Best Picture to “The Hurt Locker,” whose director Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win this race.
6. Lisa Cholodenko for “The Kids are All Right” (2010)
7. Debra Granik for “Winter’s Bone” (2010)
Their films lost Best Picture to “The King’s Speech, whose director Tom Hooper also won.
In 2011, the academy shifted to a flexible field of between five and 10 Best Picture nominees. One woman before DuVernay saw her film in contention but had to sit on the sidelines:
8. Kathryn Bigelow, “Zero Dark Thirty” (2012)
Her film lost Best Picture to “Argo” while Ang Lee (“The Life of Pi”) won Best Director.