Just one year after Maggie Gyllenhaal (“The Lost Daughter”) became the second woman to win the Directors Guild of America’s First-Time Film Director award, Charlotte Wells (“Aftersun”) is set to follow her as the category’s third female champ. The 35-year-old Scottish filmmaker, who helmed three narrative shorts between 2015 and 2017, has already been heavily feted for her feature directing (and writing) debut with accolades such as the Cannes French Touch Prize and the Gotham Award for Best Breakthrough Director. Now, the fact that a whopping 96% of Gold Derby’s 2023 DGA Awards predictions odds-makers have her as their top choice in the rookie race should translate to a decisive win.
This category’s current lineup is the only one in its eight-year history to include just one male nominee. Last year’s unprecedented field of six consisted of two men and four women, including Gyllenhaal. Our odds show Wells far outpacing female contenders Alice Diop (“Saint Omer,” second place), Audrey Diwan (“Happening,” fourth) and Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović (“Murina,” fifth), as well as lone male John Patton Ford (“Emily the Criminal,” third).
SEE Oscars nominations: ‘Everything Everywhere’ leads with 11, ‘All Quiet’ and ‘Banshees’ at 9
A total of 15 women and 26 men have vied for this prize since 2016, making for a 1:1.7 ratio. The other 10 female directors who preceded the latest quartet were winner Alma Har’el (“Honey Boy,” 2019) and nominees Marielle Heller (“The Diary of a Teenage Girl,” 2015), 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), Regina King (“One Night in Miami,” 2020), Rebecca Hall (“Passing,” 2021), Tatiana Huezo (“Prayers for the Stolen,” 2021) and Emma Seligman (“Shiva Baby,” 2021).
After two consecutive female victories in the general Best Film Director category (Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland”; Jane Campion, “The Power of the Dog”), that group is all-male again for the 64th time in 75 years. A 65% majority of our participating users expect Steven Spielberg (“The Fabelmans”) to score his fourth win there following his previous triumphs for “The Color Purple” (1985), “Schindler’s List” (1993) and “Saving Private Ryan” (1998). To date, the only other woman who has taken the top prize is Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker,” 2009).
SEE 2023 Oscar nominations: Full list of nominees in all 23 categories
Most female DGA film award winners hail from the Best Documentary Director category, where eight women have been honored for their direction or co-direction of 10 nonfiction features. Included on this list are Barbara Kopple (“American Dream,” 1991; “Fallen Champ,” 1993), Lexy Lovell (“Riding the Rails,” 1997), Nanette Burstein (“On the Ropes,” 1999), Jehane Noujaim (“Startup.com,” 2001 and “The Square,” 2013), Tasha Oldham (“The Smith Family,” 2002), Byambasuren Davaa (“The Story of the Weeping Camel,” 2004), Laura Poitras (“Citizenfour,” 2014) and Julia Reichert (“American Factory,” 2019).
As the director of “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed,” Poitras leads our current Best Documentary Director race with 67% of the top choice votes. In second place with 25% is another female filmmaker, Sara Dosa (“Fire of Love”). After Kopple, Noujaim and Matthew Heineman (“Cartel Land,” 2015; “City of Ghosts,” 2017), Poitras would be the fourth person and third woman to win this award twice.
Besides Har’el and Gyllenhaal, the past recipients of the first-time directing award are Alex Garland (“Ex Machina,” 2015), Garth Davis (“Lion,” 2016), Jordan Peele (“Get Out,” 2017), Bo Burnham (“Eighth Grade,” 2018) and Darius Marder (“Sound of Metal,” 2020). This year’s victor will be revealed during a non-televised ceremony on Saturday, February 18.
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