I mean really, it’s no secret that Hollywood is one big boys club, where a filmmakers name and connections carry more weight than the actual product. It’s a fact that women and people of color will always have to try that much harder to get anywhere in the film industry. It comes as no surprise that Selma director Ava DuVernay knew she wouldn’t be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director. In a piece featured in Entertainment Weekly, DuVernay says,
“It would be lovely,” she told EW over lunch in L.A. on Dec. 18. “When it happens to whomever it happens to, it will certainly have meaning.” But it would not be her. “This is not me being humble, either,” she said. “It’s math.”
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences include over 6,000 active members who vote every season. Of those 6,000 members, voting occurs according to a member’s specific professions, actors nominate other actors and cinematographers nominate fellow cinematographers for an example. DuVernay says, “I know not one person in my branch,” the directors branch. A branch of the academy which is typically white and male. Think about it like this: You’re the new kid at school gearing up for a game of kickball. Gym teacher picks captains, and the captains are to pick their own teams. For the most part instead of choosing based on talent and athleticism, they choose familiar faces, leaving the new kid to be picked last.
Selma appears right on the heels of the events in Ferguson, Mo., and a New York officer not being charged with the death of Eric Garner by illegal chokehold. Not surprisingly, journalists bloggers and newspapers nation wide drew comparisons between the film and current events. In the article by Entertainment Weekly, a member of the academy (who wished to remain anonymous) reacted defensively and said,
“It’s almost like because she is African-American, we should have made her one of the nominees. I think that’s racist. Look at what we did last year with 12 Years.”
Mmkay. Sounds like the Academy can only vote for one “black film” every couple of years. Granted, there were many well done films made by great directors in the past year that weren’t nominated, David Fincher’s Gone Girl and Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar were two that really stuck out. Either way Hollywood is all politics; the snub didn’t surprise DuVernay, and doesn’t surprise us. But if she’s the filmmaker we all know she is, she’ll come back harder next time. Though she won’t be the first black female director to win an Academy Award, she came close, and perhaps paved the way for those who follow.