Michelle Yeoh fights in a multiverse, Angela Bassett leads a war-torn nation, and Cate Blanchett manipulates a world-class orchestra.
Wide-ranging narratives led by female actors fill Sunday’s list of films nominated for Academy Awards, highlighting advances in an industry that has relegated women to supporting roles overshadowed by male protagonists.
“This is an extraordinary year for women,” said “Tar” actress Blanchett at the British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA) last month.
“We know we are only the tip of the iceberg,” he added. “Every year there are extraordinary, incredible performances that shatter the myth that women’s experiences are monolithic.”
“Tar,” a kung fu adventure starring Ye as the main character tasked with saving the world, is up for best picture ahead of Vse Vse Vse Vse Vshetra.
Women Speak Out, a film about sexual violence in Mennonite women’s communities, also made best picture.
In the supporting actress competition, Angela Bassett is in the running to play Queen Ramonda in Marvel’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, a film that brings female warriors to the fore.
However, Hollywood is still far from a place of gender balance.
“Women are making strides in certain areas on screen,” said UCLA sociologist Darnell Hunt, who co-authored the annual Hollywood Diversity Report. But, Hunt added, they have “a long way to go, especially behind the scenes.”
The 2017 revelations of sexual harassment by producer Harvey Weinstein, which sparked the #MeToo movement and was chronicled in last fall’s She Said, prompted women to speak out about their lack of power in Hollywood and demand equality. About half of the total US population. The data shows some improvement.
UCLA researchers predict that in 2021, women will make up 47.2% of lead roles in theatrical and streaming films. This is an increase of 32.9% compared to 2017.
In 2021, only 21.8% of directors were women. In 2017, this figure was 12.6%. In its 94-year history, only three women have won the Best Director Oscar. Sarah Polley of Women Speak and Gina Prince-Blythewood of The King Woman were nominated this year.
“WE MUST TAKE A STEP FORWARD”
According to 2020 UCLA data, the ranks of film-making and budget-setting executives are also heavily male. The researchers found that 82% of studio executives, as well as 80% of senior management teams below the CEO level, are men.
“It’s not fair,” said Black Panther star and 2014 Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o about the number of women leading studios. “It’s about fighting for more space at the table, for leadership to become the norm.”
To promote gender balance, advocates created the ReFrame mark, a certification that productions can use to demonstrate that they have hired women in at least half of the main roles on screen and behind the camera.
Of the 100 highest-grossing films in the US and Canada in 2022, 29 met this criterion.
“Tar” director Todd Field says he hopes Hollywood will move beyond past attitudes about gender. Ten years ago, he said that a movie starring a man could get a bigger budget.
“There’s a great tradition of strong female characters and strong female leads in film history, mainly in the 1950s,” Field said. “Why that changed at any point, I’m not sure.”
“The idea that we can leave this area behind and work with a broader view of humanity, I think is a healthy thing,” he added.
More female-centric films are slated to hit theaters in the coming months. These include The Incredibles, a superhero film starring three female leads; Coming of age “Is there a God?” It’s Me, Margaret is an adaptation of the novel and a new incarnation of the Barbie doll from Oscar-nominated director Greta Gerwig.
“We are definitely making progress and we need to keep it up,” said Yeoh, adding that women still need to pursue opportunities. Older women in particular have to struggle with the idea that they are past their prime, she said.
“We have to rewrite this nonsense,” said the 60-year-old, “and that’s what I’m here to do.”