This article was previously published on The Silhouette
Film awards have been, and probably always will be, rooted in Hollywood politics. From snubs to last-minute bidding, it seems as though the merit of individual films are often overlooked in favour of marketability.
The 2015 Oscar nominations were recently announced and have resulted in many discussions about race relations in Hollywood. Not only were the acting categories all white, many have begun to examine why certain films were absent from the Best Director categories.
Intersectionality is always important, but when examining the lack of Best Director nominations forSelma, a film portraying the Martin Luther King Selma march, intersectionality is of the utmost importance. Ava DuVernay was the first black female to be nominated for Best Director in the Golden Globes’ 77-year tenure.
Despite having a 99 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, higher than the critically acclaimed and widely-nominated Boyhood, the film was glaringly absent from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Producers Guild of America Awards, Directors Guild of America Awards, and Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations, and was snubbed in the Best Director category for the Academy Awards.
Only four women have ever been nominated in the Best Director category, while only one, Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker has won. Comparatively, only three Black men have ever been nominated for Best Director in the Academy Awards 87-year history. Had Ava DuVernay found her way into the category, she would have been the first Black female to ever have a place in the category.
In popular culture, movies and television often reinforce values commonly held in society and overlooking talented black women should remind us that sexism and racism, especially in Hollywood, are still highly prevalent. In 2014, 17 of the 250 top selling films were directed by women, and three of those were Black female directors.
In a 2012 survey, the L.A. Times found that 94 percent of Oscar voters are white, and 77 percent are male. How can Black women expect fairness when their voices are overwhelmingly absent from the voting process? While it is important to note that Selma received nominations for Best Picture and Best Original Song (“Glory” by Common and John Legend), we do a disservice by admitting that “at least we have those.” It is not a matter of charity, and it’s not enough to get crumbs; it should be about fairness.
No, Selma would not have won every award category it was nominated in, but that does not mean that we should overlook the lack of nominations. Black women have continued to prove that they are talented enough and it is time that we, and the film industry, recognized this.