In the whole of Golden Globes' history, only five female directors had previously been nominated for best director, making the category a bit of a ‘boys club.’ Now, for the first time, three women have been nominated for the award.
Three females nominated in the best director category
Chloé Zhao, Emerald Fennell, and Regina King have all been nominated for best director for their respective films, Nomadland, Promising Young Woman, and One Night in Miami.
In previous years the ceremony had failed to have two women up for nomination let alone three, offering a shred of hope that patterns of sexism amongst the ceremony’s director category may finally be changing. Since the Golden Globes introduced their director category in 1946, only five other women have been nominated including Barbra Streisand and Kathryn Bigelow (who were each nominated twice), Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola and Ava DuVernay. Streisand was the only woman to ever earn the winning title for the category, but with any luck that will soon change.
This year’s female director nominations were also the most diverse with Chloé Zhao being the first-ever Asian woman to be nominated for the category, while Regina King is the second Black woman in GG history to be nominated for the award.
What films were they nominated for?
Chloé Zhao - Nomadland
Zhao’s film, Nomadland, which is set to be released in March, follows the story of a woman named Fern (Frances McDormand) who lost everything in the Great Recession who then decides to pursue a life of modern nomadism in the American west. The film is based on Jessica Bruder's 2017 book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century.
In her work Zhao also incorporated moments when cast members, who were actual nomads, shared their stories. Zhao detailed that it was the imperfect performances of the non-professional actors that added another dimension to the film:
It's that uncomfortable, almost too-real feeling of just holding on someone's face long enough and having them stumble on their lines, when they're speaking something so personal and real. That's something almost impossible to re-create in a staged situation.
Emerald Fennell - Promising Young Woman
Fennell’s Promising Young Woman made its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January last year and has already been dubbed as the ‘most audacious feminist movie of the year.’ The genre-mash thriller, which was also written by Fennell, takes place when medical student Cassie (Carey Mulligan), has her life derailed by the rape of her best friend. Cassie drops out of school to take care of the traumatised Nina (who is never seen) while being overcome with rage and slowly going adrift. Leading lady Mulligan explained the reaction the film received during its premiere:
No one was sitting comfortably in their seats. You could feel their stomach muscles all tightened up. I think that really is a rare thing. It does provoke a reaction that is unlike anything I’ve seen in a long time.
Regina King - One Night in Miami
King’s movie, One Night in Miami follows a depiction of the night that boxer Muhammed Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown gathered together to discuss their roles in the Civil Rights Movement. Regina spoke to the New York Times about her choice for her directing debut, which was an adaptation of a 2013 play by Kemp Powers of the same name:
This subject has been present for Black people ever since our history in America has existed. I also thought Kemp’s words were a love letter to the Black man’s experience.
Other notable nominations include that of the late Chadwick Boseman for his performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Fennell’s Promising Young Woman has also swept categories and Netflix tv favourites, The Crown, Emily in Paris and The Queen’s Gambit have also surprised fans with their nominations.