Nearly three decades after making her film acting debut at age 14, Maggie Gyllenhaal has now added her first feature writing and directing credits to her resume. Since its Venice International Film Festival premiere last September, her “The Lost Daughter” has won her numerous accolades, from the festival’s Golden Osella to the Independent Spirit Awards for Best Feature, Best Director and Best Screenplay. Gyllenhaal is also nominated for the Directors Guild of America’s First-Time Film Director award. According to our DGA Awards odds, she is widely expected to prevail and thereby become only the second woman to receive the honor.
This particular glass ceiling was broken by Alma Har’el, who took the 2020 prize for helming “Honey Boy.” Since the category’s establishment in 2015, 11 women and 25 men have vied for the award, making for a 1:2.3 ratio. The first female contender was inaugural nominee Marielle Heller (“The Diary of a Teenage Girl,” 2015). Aside from her and Har’el, the other women who were recognized prior to this year are Kelly Fremon Craig (“The Edge of Seventeen,” 2016), Mati Diop (“Atlantics,” 2019), Melina Matsoukas (“Queen & Slim,” 2019), Radha Blank (“The 40-Year-Old Version,” 2020) and Regina King (“One Night in Miami,” 2020).
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The current 2022 lineup, which honors films released in 2021, is the most female-heavy in the category’s history, as its women outnumber its men by a margin of two to one. We posit that Gyllenhaal is comfortably in first place ahead of her fellow female nominees Rebecca Hall (“Passing,” third), Emma Seligman (“Shiva Baby,” fifth), and Tatiana Huezo (“Prayers for the Stolen,” sixth). In the second and fourth slots are male directors Lin-Manuel Miranda (“tick, tick… BOOM!”) and Michael Sarnoski (“Pig”).
Three more women are currently nominated in the other two DGA film categories, with Jane Campion being our predicted Best Director winner for “The Power of the Dog.” Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi (“The Rescue,” co-directed by Jimmy Chin) and Jessica Kingdon (“Ascension”) are up for the documentary directing prize, but we have them in second and fourth place, respectively, with Questlove (“Summer of Soul”) at the top of that heap.
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The main Best Director award has only gone to two female filmmakers in 73 years. Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”) forged that path in 2010, and Chloe Zhao (“Nomadland”) followed just last year. Campion, who is expected to become the third, is already only the second woman to earn two nominations in this category, having first been recognized for “The Piano” in 1994. Bigelow preceded her by picking up a bid for “Zero Dark Thirty” in 2013.
There have been eight female winners in the documentary category’s three-decade history, beginning with Barbara Kopple, who triumphed in both 1992 (“American Dream”) and 1994 (“Fallen Champ”). She has since been followed by Lexy Lovell (“Riding the Rails,” 1998), Nanette Burstein (“On the Ropes,” 2000), Jehane Noujaim (“Startup.com,” 2002 and “The Square,” 2014), Tasha Oldham (“The Smith Family,” 2003), Byambasuren Davaa (“The Story of the Weeping Camel,” 2005), Laura Poitras (“Citizenfour,” 2015), and Julia Reichert (“American Factory,” 2020).
Besides Har’el, the past winners of the first-time directing award have been Alex Garland (“Ex Machina,” 2016), Garth Davis (“Lion,” 2017), Jordan Peele (“Get Out,” 2018), Bo Burnham (“Eighth Grade,” 2019), and Darius Marder (“Sound of Metal,” 2021). This year’s champ will be revealed during a non-televised ceremony on Saturday, March 12, hosted by Judd Apatow.