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these five women might just take over awards season

Here's who we're tipping.

by Colin Crummy
|
10 August 2017, 7:00am

kings

When Kathryn Bigelow won Best Director for The Hurt Locker at the Oscars in 2010, she was the first woman to win the accolade -- she was also the last. Behind-the-scenes the number of women involved in writing, directing and producing cinema has stayed relatively static, even dipped. In 2016, women comprised just seven per cent of directors helming the top 250 box office films of the year, according to the niftily titled Celluloid Ceiling report. Amid those gloomy percentages, there is reason for (guarded) optimism. This year, the breadth and quality of box office friendly cinema being made by women, is extremely high. So high in fact, that it will take some very shady awards voters to ignore them come early 2018. Here's who we're tipping.

Dee Rees
Let's get right to it: Dee Rees is an African American, lesbian filmmaker so an Oscar nomination would feel ground-breaking on several fronts. It helps, of course, that Rees has turned up to this year's awards season party with a big, important film under her belt. Mudbound is about two U.S. soldiers -- one from a black sharecropper family, one from their white landowners -- whose unlikely friendship on return to rural Mississippi after WWII ignites racial violence. The ensemble cast includes Carey Mulligan, Garett Hedlund and an unrecognisable, unmissable Mary J Blige (who is surely heading for awards nominations here herself). The film feels potent, poetic and alive with ideas about race, womanhood and what it is to be an American. Rees is a relative late bloomer, only getting into cinema after a career in marketing. This is surely her time.

Kathryn Bigelow
No stranger to shattering glass ceilings, Kathryn Bigelow is the awards season veteran of the pack who pulls no punches with the kind of cinema she makes. Her latest, Detroit, is a forensic reconstruction of the Algiers Motel incident, a notorious piece of police brutality against young African Americans during the 1967 summer riots in the city. The film has a young high calibre cast including John Boyega, as the black security guard who witnesses the violence and Will Poulter as the racist cop hell bent on spilling blood. There's a real potent contemporary resonance to Detroit, gruelling and meticulously researched; the kind of film that Academy members will find difficult to ignore.

Susanna White
British director Susanna White helms Woman Walks Ahead, a film based on the true story of Brooklyn artist Catherine Weldon who became embroiled in the Lakota people's struggle to hold on to their land in 1889. Jessica Chastain plays the 'Woman' of the title who went to Standing Rock to paint legendary Native American leader Sitting Bull. The story's modern day parallels -- given the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's ongoing fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline -- might help its case. If it portrays Weldon as some kind of white saviour, it might feel a little less palpable to a woke awards season voter. The film premieres at Toronto film festival in September, when it will become clearer if it is on a path to award victory.

Deniz Gamze Ergüven
Turkish director Deniz Gamze Ergüven landed an Oscar nomination for her 2015 debut Mustang, an intoxicatingly sweet depiction of sisterhood mixed with sharp critique of the conservative mores that keep young women in check in the filmmaker's native country. Ergüven's first English language feature is Kings, which, seeing as it is set against the backdrop of the 1992 LA riots, is likely to be a similarly heady brew of the personal and political. The film premieres at Toronto Film Festival next month and stars Halle Berry and Daniel Craig as foster parents who arrive in the city a few weeks ahead of the Rodney King trial verdict that sparked an eruption of violence.

Amma Asante
In Amma Asante's films Belle and A United Kingdom, the British Ghanaian filmmaker explored relationships across racial divides with both nuance and big screen appeal. For her next move, Asante ventures into the dark heart of wartime Germany and a romance between a mixed race German girl (Everything, Everything star Amandla Stenberg) and an SS officer (Captain Fantastic's George MacKay). The film may be a touch on the young side for Academy voters (of which Asante is now one herself) but this is a filmmaker whose stated intention -- to cause a disruption -- is much bigger than collecting golden statutes. 

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Text Colin Crummy