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Off The Shelf: Diversity Issues with the Academy Awards

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The Academy Awards are coming up on Sunday, March 4.

While the Academy Awards have done a slightly better job in recent years of being more diverse with their acting nominations, a category that has lagged behind is that of Best Director. The nominees in that category have been predominantly white males throughout the award’s history. This year, however, the Best Director nominees include a woman (Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird), an African-American (Jordan Peele, Get Out), and a Mexican-American (Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water).

This is a good step forward, but the Academy and Hollywood still have a lot of work to do regarding diversity in opportunities. Including Gerwig, only five women have been nominated for best director in Academy history, and only one, Kathryn Bigelow for 2010’s The Hurt Locker, has won. You can check out The Hurt Locker from the Madison College Libraries, as well as Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation (2003) and Jane Campion’s The Piano (1993), two of the other films directed by women to receive Best Director nods. Selma (2014), which received a Best Picture nomination, but not one for its African American woman director, Ana DuVernay, may also be checked out.

The library’s newest subscription database, Kanopy, specializes in streaming independent movies and documentaries from a wide gamut of perspectives. In addition to offering many feature films and documentaries directed by women and minorities that have not gotten mainstream distribution, Kanopy also offer many documentaries about the struggles of women and minorities in the industry.

One documentary, Reel HERstory, made by Ally Acker and Jodie Foster, examines the struggles and achievements of women directors from the silent era to today. Acker’s seminal book on the history of women filmmakers, Reel Women: Pioneers of the Cinema, is also available for checkout at the Truax Library.

If you’re looking at the issue from an academic research perspective, the Madison College Libraries offer many resources to examine the issue of diversity in the film industry. A report entitled “Diversity in Hollywood” in the library’s subscription database CQ Researcher highlights the issue that white males still represent a vast majority of people involved in the film business. The library’s Ebsco databases include many academic articles on the subject as well.

Other exhaustive annual reports examining the state of opportunities for women and minorities in film and television are done by UCLA’s Ralph Bunche Center for African American Studies and San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film. The latter includes a well-researched annual Celluloid Ceiling Report.

All of these reports can be found in the library’s Film Studies Research Guide at

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Off The Shelf: Diversity Issues with the Academy Awards