The lack of women nominees for Best Director category at this year’s Academy Awards in February made waves, with Greta Gerwig’s (Little Women) perceived snub causing quite a bit of heartburn all around. It is true that only five women have ever been nominated and only one – Katheryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) – has won to date. Bigelow by the way, also directed the 2012 masterpiece Zero Dark Thirty, about the CIA female-driven hunt for Osama bin Laden.
However, the absence of nominations, awards or Oscar recognition doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of deserving women directors out there. Women are rocking it! Black women film directors are particularly underrepresented when it comes to awards but there are several incredible black women worth celebrating. Two such ones are Ava DuVernay and Kasi Lemmons.
Ava DuVernay has been paving the way for black women in the industry since her first film. This multi-talented force is a director, writer, and producer on many of her projects. She was the first black woman to win a directing award at the Sundance Film Festival, the first black woman to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Director, and the first female black film director to have her film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Her films include Middle of Nowhere, Selma, A Wrinkle in Time, and 13th. She is also known for her work on television with the drama Queen Sugar and the critically acclaimed mini-series When They See Us.
Kasi Lemmons is an actress and director. While she directed her first film in 1997, her more recent work is particularly noteworthy. Lemmons has directed six films, including Eve’s Bayou, The Caveman’s Valentine, Talk to Me, Black Nativity, and Harriet. Lemmons took sharing the story of Harriet Tubman very seriously and making the film at this particular time in history informed her perspective. Harriet is “a freedom movie; it’s not a slavery movie,” Lemmons says. “It exists in a very perilous and conflicted time in our country, but it’s really about freedom and what you’re willing to do for it — not just for you, but for others.”
What’s next for these two filmmakers? “I’m never not trying to get a movie made,” Lemmons says. DuVernay, too, never seems to let up on the hustle. Importantly, both women are aware of their impact and their privilege and are always working to help open the door for other women and other people of color.