There has been a great deal of outrage in the movie industry over the lack of Golden Globe nominations for women in the Best Director category, following the nominations announcement on Monday, and Alma Har'el, an Israeli director currently working in Hollywood, has a radical proposal for how to change that.
“Unless we have a new category for women directors — the same way we have [separate] actor and actress categories — we won’t see any changes,” she said in an interview with Variety on Monday.
Har'el's most recent film is Honey Boy, a coming-of-age story loosely based on the life of its star and screenwriter, Shia LaBeouf. Har'el won a Special Jury Prize for the film at the Sundance Film Festival last January. The Hollywood Reporter wrote that the film's failure to get an Golden Globe nominations constituted a major snub.
Israeli-American actress Natalie Portman, whose 2015 directorial debut was the Hebrew-language adaptation of Amos Oz's A Tale of Love and Darkness, raised the issue of lack of women Golden Globe nominees in 2018 when she presented the Best Director award with Ron Howard and said, "And here are the all-male nominees." Last year's nominees were all male as well.
Har'el, who has also directed acclaimed documentaries and successful music videos, pleaded for the public to recognize the extent of the problem, “They dare to say they don’t judge by gender but that’s exactly what they do. There were so many films this year that connected with audiences and critics as well as performed at the box office, and this group is out of touch and doesn’t see any of us. Zero women script writers. Zero best films by women. Zero women directors nominated. I will not live my life as a filmmaker who plans to keep working subjected to a group of voters that doesn’t see us.”
Only five female directors have ever been nominated for Golden Globes: Barbra Streisand, Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola, Kathryn Bigelow (who was nominated twice) and Ava DuVernay (the most recent female nominee, for the 2014 film, Selma). Streisand is the only woman who has ever won, in 1984, for Yentl.
This year, a number of women directors, in addition to Har’el, were considered major contenders for the Globes, including Greta Gerwig for Little Women (which received two nominations, one for its star, Saoirse Ronan, and one for Best Score), Olivia Wilde for Booksmart (which received a Best Actress nod for Beanie Feldman) and Melina Matsoukas for the critically acclaimed Queen and Slim. Lulu Wang’s The Farewell, a Chinese-American film, was nominated in the Best Motion Picture — Foreign Language category.
Naturally, not everyone agrees with Har'el.
Sasha Stone, the editor of the influential website Awards Daily, wrote in a piece posted following the announcement called, “The Clickbait Outrage Machine Goes into Overdrive Post Globes,” that “‘Pick a woman, any woman’ seems to be the message.”
Lorenzo Soria, the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the body with fewer than 100 members that gives out the Globes, defended the nominations, saying, “We don’t vote by gender. We vote by film and accomplishment.”
Har’el shot back at him on Twitter, in an acid-tinged tweet that has since been deleted, “Oh please. If you only saw how these people get pampered with gifts, private concerts and events over four months. They vote by comfort and star f—ing.”
The Globes have had a checkered history. Although they seem to have cleaned up their act in recent years, they were once known as “The Golden Bribes,” meaning it was thought that it was possible simply to buy votes with cash and perks to which Har’el alluded in her tweet.
Suspicion of bribery was particularly strong in 1982 when the Golden Globes gave the New Star of the Year award to Pia Zadora, a petite blonde then married to the film’s producer, Israeli multi-millionaire businessman Meshulam Riklis, for the huge flop, Butterfly. Riklis had flown HFPA members to Las Vegas for the weekend and held a screening in his mansion. Much more recently, a 2013 lawsuit by Michael Russell, who was the organization’s publicist for 17 years, alleged that, “HFPA members abuse their positions and engage in unethical and potentially unlawful deals and arrangements which amount to a ‘payola’ scheme. ” The HFPA settled with him.
Still, in spite of the HFPA’s troubled history, the ceremony and awards receive a great deal of publicity, particularly since they are seen as predictive of the Oscars, the nominations for which will be announced on January 13. Only one woman has ever won a Best Director Oscar — Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker in 2009, and only five have ever been nominated.