Where Are All the Minority Directors at the Oscars?

This week has marked excitement in Hollywood as everyone got ready for the release of the official list of nominations and subsequent dissection of the Oscar nods; everyone wanted to know who was in, who was out and who got snubbed. It was a tough Oscar field to choose from this year, with a large number of excellent films on deck for consideration, and inevitably, some lost out while others, like Lincoln, became leaders of the pack. Members of the Academy didn’t have an easy job when it came to deciding which films to include in the contention for one of the most prestigious awards in film.

One thing stood out this year, as it does every year: the significant lack of recognition for minority directors.

Ang Lee was the only nonwhite director nominated in the Best Director category, and no women at all were on the list; notably, Kathryn Bigelow, who would have been eligible with Zero Dark Thirty, was the first woman to win an Oscar in this category, in 2008. It took the Academy 80 years to recognize a woman’s contributions to the field and it’s apparently reluctant to do so again. Ang Lee’s been nominated — and honored — before, in 2005, with Brokeback Mountain, making him the first nonwhite recipient of the Best Director Oscar, and we’ll see if he takes it again with Life of Pi.

Women were moderately better represented among the producers on the Best Picture nominees: Kathleen Kennedy, Pilar Savone, Donna Gigliotti, Stacey Sher, Debra Hayward, Megan Ellison and Kathryn Bigelow showed up here for their contributions on films like Silver Linings Playbook and Zero Dark Thirty. But the list was heavily dominated, overall, by men, and not just men, but white men.

Is Hollywood really teeming with white male directors and producers, to the point that almost no nonwhite producers and filmmakers can be found, let alone women? Or is there some bias in the Academy’s selection process? It’s actually a bit of a mixture of both, which highlights the way sexism operates in society.

Getting ahead in Hollywood is substantially easier if you’re a white man; more doors tend to open to you, and more opportunities are created for you. Many white males in the Hollywood establishment benefit directly from racism and sexism and aren’t aware of it, though some certainly take note and a smaller number even try to fight it. Because of the slimmer chances of developing a career if you’re a member of a minority group, it means the Academy has fewer projects written, directed and produced by minorities to choose from, and unconscious biases also affect nomination decisions, confounding with the lack of projects to choose from to create suspiciously white and male lists.

To change the racial and gender makeup of nomination lists, the Academy would need to go out of its way to identify eligible projects by minorities and incorporate them into the consideration process. In any confrontation of gender and race inequality, conversations about “reverse racism” tend to come up when people talk about promoting people from minority backgrounds, as though people are suggesting that people with inferior experience and qualifications should be chosen over white men for the “diversity quotient.” (Quotas are another thing that tend to get bandied about.) Proposals to level the playing field, though, aren’t about choosing minorities over members of the majority — they’re about giving minorities an equal shot in a system with odds stacked against them.

Minority projects tend to be underpromoted, underfunded and underrecognized. It’s time to change that.

It shouldn’t be remarkable to see nonwhite people and people of color among the Oscar nods, any more than it should be to see women. In 2013, we should be long past this.


Related articles:

Billy Crystal Wins Best Racist at Oscars 2012

Where Are the Women at the Oscars?

Hollywood’s Generation Gap = Oscar’s Midlife Crisis


Photo credit: Louise Haywood-Schiefer


Dale O.

Very true Anna K, it can be very baffling indeed but things are often a reflection of society as a whole at times. Lori S, in a melodramatic and maudlin performance, pontificates that:

"Blacks are prejudice against Whites. Not all blacks .... just 99.9%."

Wow, 99 percent, that is something else isn't it? You really do have a grim perspective on the world, but then, when you said in a previous comment:

"...the Buzz words, Minority, Diversity, Affirmative action, Overlooked, left out, all mean the same thing - Hate whitey. Blame whitey".

Dale O.

A 'charming' perspective of 'tolerance.' Not. Ninety nine percent. Unbelievable! Past Member, it appears that someone is tied up in quite a knot of steaming anger. One can hear the band singing "99 bottles of crying in the beer of hostility on the wall, 99 levels of intolerance".

The Life of Pi, stormy seas, flying fish landing in the boat, a roaring tiger. I found an interesting analysis of the Life of Pi especially with a discussion on the theme of hate. Very fascinating indeed. Let it go, indeed.


Sandra S.
Past Member 3 years ago

NATASHA: So, I'm "bloody irritating? Thanks for the heads up - I'll work on it.

I studied film at uni., so it's important to me (is going to university "living my life?"). Is it irritating when I admire someone for writing a good screenplay that addresses issues pertinent to today's world? To each their own - WTFAY?, as The Who sang it. Some films are silly time-wasters, but some send important messages, others make people laugh (the best medicine), and cry (a good release). But the most important films to me are those that draw me in and deliver a message that I sometimes think about for days. Film is an ARTFORM, and can open our eyes to our current life issues, and teach us about our history..

Guess I'll go "live my life" now. A little tolerance for others' passions if you please. Have you considered that some of your activities may be "bloody irritating" to others? I noticed on your profile that you listed movies and one of the things you enjoy, and that you don't like intolerance. What Gives?

TTYS, from Bloody Irritating Sandra

Natasha Salgado
natasha salgado3 years ago

Oh come on now,seriously....Sometimes people can be so bloody irritating. Go live your life and next time don't watch the Oscars,PLEASE.

Sandra S.
Past Member 3 years ago

Hey Cat. Yer darn tootin' I watched the Os - I love film, and it was great to see the winners all round. I know there are more important issues in life, but I'm passionate about movies, GOOD movies. The Oscars may be a lovefest, but look at who won: Daniel Day Lewis, for a superb, incredible portrayal of Lincoln, Ang Lee for The Life of Pi, a story of amazing courage, Ben A. for Argo, another story of loyalty and courage, Jennifer Lawrence for The Silver Linings Playbook, a realistic portrayal of dealing with mental illness... and so on. These films are not just time-wasters; good movies can just entertain, but they can also send a message, make a political, environmental, humanitarian statement.. FILM IS AN IMPORTANT MEDIUM and ART FORM, and to dismiss them out of hand (as many of the comments do), is to miss out. Look in the front rows and you see good representation of just about everyone. AND I LOVE seeing what everyone is wearing. Thanks for the comment.

Cat S.
cathie S3 years ago

Well Now did every one watch last night I sure do hope so because I think every thing was as it should have been I am getting sick of people complaining just to start some bs over nothing are there not better thing we could be talking about beside who won a Oscars by the way have you all who are upset about this did you all see his movie it was GREAT. I really feel there are better things to worry about so lets all take a breath and move on one last thing WTG BEN you did it. GREAT movie keep them coming., Life of Pi did good last night too. OH JUST for the record a WHITE man did NOT win best Director the Minority Director who made Life Of Pi did so now are you happy

Yulan Lawson
Yulan Lawson3 years ago

Interesting, good point.

Lori S.
Lori S.3 years ago

Thanks - good statement
LET IT GO it is OK f a WHITE man wins if he earned it

Aren't the blacks busy making films for BET - Black TV
Do whites win awards from BET - or the NAACP or any
of their racist organizations ?

Cat S.
cathie S3 years ago

LET IT GO it is OK f a WHITE man wins if he earned it

Charlene R.
Charlene R3 years ago

Does it come to mind that perhaps there were no "best" in the minorities? Best means best not ok we'll nominate at least one or two minorities.