Entertainment

Lights, Camera, Taking Action

Ava DuVernay, director of the film “Selma.” (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Ava DuVernay, director of the film “Selma.” (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

 

(New York Times) – The American movie mainstream needs a revolution — and if some women have their way, it just might get one. It’s time. Not because Ava DuVernay wasn’t tapped as a best director in the recent Academy Award nominations, even though her acclaimed movie “Selma” received a best picture nod. There has been a lot of speculation about the snub, but the reasons are less crucial than the message that the largely white, male directors in the Academy sent: This woman doesn’t deserve credit for her own movie. Women in film are routinely denied jobs, credits, prizes and equal pay, so the rebuke was familiar. That’s because while individual men struggle in the industry, women struggle as a group.

The outrage over the Oscar nominations has been welcome even if the problem isn’t the Academy Awards but a blinkered, fossilized industry that offers so few opportunities to women and minorities. Ms. DuVernay is one of the few female directors to make the leap into the major studio world. While it’s disappointing that she wasn’t nominated, she made a great movie and is going to keep directing without the permission of the mainstream old guard. The good news is that she won’t be alone. Increasing numbers of people — if mostly women — are pushing back hard at the industry’s biases. And they’re pushing back publicly, a gutsy stance in an industry that runs on secrets, lies and fear.

Some of these activists, like Geena Davis, are focusing on female representation in the media; others, like Maria Giese, a member of the Directors Guild of America, are going after their own organization. Gamechanger Films is practicing checkbook activism by funding female directors. The Sundance Institute and the advocacy group Women in Film have commissioned an important study for which researchers like Stacy L. Smith are crunching the numbers. Consider some recent findings: Only 4.4 percent of the top 100 box-office domestic releases between 2002 and 2012 were directed by women. In 2012, only 28.4 percent of all on-screen speaking characters in the top 100 were women. If you thought women in movies don’t have much of a voice, you’re right.

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