Female directors nominated for Oscars: Jane Campion (‘The Power of the Dog’) would be first repeat nominee

In the 93-year history of the Academy Awards, only seven women have been nominated in the Best Director category. While this stat remains abysmal and speaks to the lack of opportunities for women in the industry compared to men, it is gradually getting better. Just last year, Chloe Zhao became the second woman to win Best Director for “Nomadland” in a category that, for the first time, included another female director, Emerald Fennell for “Promising Young Woman.” This year, history may be made again if (when) Jane Campion is nominated for “The Power of the Dog,” becoming the first woman to be nominated twice in Best Director. Take a look back at the seven female directors nominated for Oscars in our photo gallery above.

It all started with Lina Wertmüller, the Italian director who became the first female Best Director nominee for her 1976 film “Seven Beauties.” Flash forward almost 20 years later where Campion landed her bid for “The Piano” (1993), winning Best Original Screenplay that same night. Another 10 years passed without a woman in Best Director until Sofia Coppola became the third member of the club for “Lost in Translation” (2003). She, too, would take Best Original Screenplay as a consolation prize.

History was finally made a few years later when Barbra Streisand, whose directorial efforts had been snubbed by the academy in years past, announced that Kathryn Bigelow had won Best Director for her war drama, “The Hurt Locker” (2009). This made Bigelow the first woman to win Best Director and the first to helm a Best Picture winner, with “The Hurt Locker” taking the top award at the end of the night. Bigelow would accrue Oscar buzz again for her 2012 film “Zero Dark Thirty,” but she was surprisingly overlooked in Best Director, even with the film nominated in Best Picture.

During this time period, other female directors saw their films nominated in Best Picture without earning their own directing bids, including Lisa Cholodenko for “The Kids Are All Right” (2010), Debra Granik for “Winter’s Bone” (2010) and Ava DuVernay for “Selma” (2014). We finally saw our fifth female Best Director nominee in the form of Greta Gerwig, who became the first woman recognized for her solo directorial debut, “Lady Bird” (2017). But like Bigelow before her, Gerwig could not pull off a repeat bid two years later for “Little Women” (2019), despite the film getting into Best Picture.

Finally, Fennell and Zhao helped to fill out this exclusive club of women last year. Like Gerwig, “Promising Young Woman” was Fennell’s feature directorial debut, while Zhao was the first Asian woman to be nominated and subsequently win Best Director for “Nomadland.” Should Campion be nominated this year for “The Power of the Dog,” she would not only break new ground as the first two-time female director nominated but it would be the first instance of women nominated in consecutive years. It’s also possible that we could have multiple women nominated again this year, with strong contenders like Maggie Gyllenhaal (“The Lost Daughter”), Rebecca Hall (“Passing”) and Sian Heder (“CODA”) in the mix. As academy membership continues to diversify, it is likely that we will regularly see women in Best Director in years to come, to the extent that they will no longer be rarities popping up every five to 10 years, but the norm.

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