By Jessie Tu

For the first time in history, the number of female director nominees has outnumbered male nominees in the category of Best Director at the 78th Golden Globes. Chloé Zhao, Emerald Fennell and Regina King secured three of the five nominations for the coveted category, which came under fire last year when not a single woman director was nominated. 

This year’s nominations also mark the first time ever where more than one female director has been nominated in the best director category in a single year. 

On Wednesday morning, Sarah Jessica Parker and Taraji P. Henson announced the nominations alongside Hollywood Foreign Press Association president Ali Sar.

Chloé Zhao’s nomination for “Nomadland” also makes her the first woman of Asian descent to be nominated for best director. Her film, which is her third, and stars Frances McDormand as a recent widow traversing a small factory town in Nevada, has been making the festival rounds globally, earning the top prize at the Venice and Toronto film festivals. 

Emerald Fennell is nominated for “Promising Young Woman” a rape revenge comedy starring Carey Mulligan that has caused a lot of controversy since its release earlier this year. Fennell, 35, is best known for playing Camilla Parker Bowles in “The Crown”, though she has also been a show-runner for hit-series such as “Killing Eve” and “Call the Midwife”. 

Regina King has been nominated for her film, “One Night in Miami” — a drama that imagines one night in 1964 shared between four iconic African Americans including Muhammad Ali, (then known as Cassius Clay) Malcolm X, singer Sam Cooke and NFL star Jim Brown. 

For her nomination, King, who starred in prominent roles including “Watchmen”, “If Beale Street Could Talk” and “Miss Congeniality 2”, becomes just the second Black woman in history to earn a Golden Globe nomination for best director. According to IndieWire, she is also only the fifth black director to be nominated in the category overall.

In the Golden Globes’ 78-year history, only five female directors have ever been nominated in the best director category, and only one has won. And it was a very long time ago — almost 30 years in fact. The first and only time a woman director has taken best director at the Golden Globes was in 1984, when Barbra Streisand won it for “Yentl”— a romantic musical drama which Streisand directed, co-written, co-produced and starred in herself, playing a young Jewish woman who disguises herself as a man to study at yeshiva. 

New Zealand director Jane Campion was nominated in 1994 for her film “The Piano”. The next female nomination took another ten years — in 2004, Sofia Coppola was nominated for “Lost In Translation”. 

Kathryn Bigelow was nominated in 2010 for her film “The Hurt Locker” (which won the Oscar in that category for that year) and again in 2013 for “Zero Dark Thirty”. The last female nominee at the Golden Globes for Best Director was in 2015, when Ava DuVernay was nominated for “Selma” a drama focusing on the story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In Hollywood, female directors are still in an extreme minority. Just 16 percent of directors working on the 100 highest-grossing films in 2020 were women — a slight improvement from 12 percent the previous year, and 4 percent in 2018. 

According to The Guardian’s film editor, Catherine Shoard, the Golden Globes are decided by “a small, mysterious and largely anonymous group of foreign language journalists in Hollywood,” and fewer than 100 voters are involved.

The other nominations in this year’s Best Director category at the Golden Globes went to Aaron Sorkin for “The Trial of the Chicago 7” and David Fincher, for “Mank”. 

This year’s awards ceremony will air on February 28. 


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