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6 Women-Directed Films You Need To See This Awards Season

Alas, it won’t be a hat trick for women directors at the Oscars 2023. After two back-to-back Academy Awards in which revered female filmmakers – Nomadland’s Chloé Zhao in 2021 and The Power of the Dog’s Jane Campion in 2022 – took home the Best Director statuette, six men have been nominated in that category for the upcoming ceremony on 12 March: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert for Everything Everywhere All at Once; Todd Field for Tár; Martin McDonagh for The Banshees of Inisherin; Ruben Östlund for Triangle of Sadness and Steven Spielberg for The Fabelmans. This doesn’t mean, however, that there were no films by women which were worthy of recognition – in fact, quite the opposite.

Below, we highlight six female-directed releases which deserve your attention this awards season.

Women Talking

Sarah Polley’s searing, sepia-toned account of a group of women in a Mennonite colony who must decide whether or not to leave behind the men who have so far controlled their lives was the only female-directed film to make the 10-strong Best Picture shortlist. The auteur received a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination too, so it’s even more staggering that her deft direction wasn’t rewarded. With delicacy and precision, she weaves unexpected moments of joy and humour into this largely harrowing tale, and draws out exceptional performances from Claire Foy and Jessie Buckley, both of whom were sadly overlooked, too, in the Best Supporting Actress category.


Extraordinarily tender and intimate, Charlotte Wells’s lyrical feature debut following a young father (Paul Mescal) and his precocious daughter (Frankie Corio) on holiday in Turkey propelled the former to a Best Actor nod, but considering its status as both a critical darling and indie sleeper hit which is punching way above its weight at the box office, it could easily have secured Best Director and Best Picture nominations too. It’s worth watching for its wonderfully beguiling, and ultimately heartbreaking, depiction of parental love and unimaginable loss.

The Woman King

Entirely snubbed on Oscar nominations day? Gina Prince-Bythewood’s heart-stopping, sun-dappled epic set in the 19th-century West African kingdom of Dahomey, where the general of an all-female military unit is preparing for war. Viola Davis’s omission from the Best Actress line-up for her barnstorming lead performance made headlines, but the film’s absence from the Best Picture and Director categories is equally notable when so many other action blockbusters helmed by men (Top Gun: Maverick, All Quiet on the Western Front, Avatar: The Way of Water) made the cut for the top prize. Its sheer scale and sweep make it a towering achievement that ought to have been recognised.


Chinonye Chukwu doesn’t shy away from difficult subject matter: after becoming the first Black woman to win Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize with her haunting death-row drama Clemency, she returned with the horrifying – and galvanising – true story of Mamie Till, who became a civil rights icon after the brutal murder of her 14-year-old son, Emmett, in ’50s Mississippi. The fact that Danielle Deadwyler, once considered a Best Actress frontrunner, missed out on a nod is disappointing but so, too, is the lack of recognition for Chukwu’s assured directing. She handles the rousing court scenes as masterfully as the film’s quieter moments, delves into Emmett’s life before the attack, and makes the ethical choice not to show his torture and death on screen, ensuring that we see him as a real person and not simply a national symbol.

She Said

In bringing Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s era-defining book about the Harvey Weinstein scandal – and the relentless and painstaking reporting it took to break this momentous story – to the big screen, Maria Schrader avoids shouty newsroom monologues in favour of an almost silent, measured watchfulness which ratchets up the tension with ease. We see Carey Mulligan’s Twohey and Zoe Kazan’s Kantor locking eyes across the office; the corners of crucial documents poking out of bags; the faces of Weinstein’s former colleagues flinching as they recall what he did. It’s extraordinarily effective, and results in a final product that is as meticulous and emotionally stirring as the work it dramatises. It’s a wonder, then, that the Oscars ignored it entirely.

Saint Omer

France’s submission for the Best International Film Oscar, passed over by the Academy who selected five male-directed films in that category too, is truly stunning: a taut and gut-wrenching fictionalisation of a true story centred on a Senegalese philosophy student (Guslagie Malanda) who is accused of leaving her baby daughter to be swept away by the tide on a beach in northern France. Observing her closely is a Parisian novelist (Kayije Kagame), whose own life unravels as she immerses herself in the case. The model for the latter is the film’s director, documentarian Alice Diop, who became obsessed with the real-life trial and brings incredible richness and complexity to what is, remarkably, her first narrative feature. She would certainly have been a worthy addition to the Best Director line-up.

This article was originally published on Vogue UK.

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