“The anatomically correct Oscar: he’s white and male, just like the guys who win!” read a 2002 billboard in Los Angeles during Oscar season sponsored and commissioned by the New York-based activist group, the Guerrilla Girls.
Admittedly, numbers and representation in the entertainment industry have been increasing (about time!), with 2021 being one of the years in the history of The Academy Awards with most women nominated for “Best Director.”
And yet, 2022 saw one of the lowest gender gaps in the industry, with female directors holding on only 27% of eligible features. This year’s awards showed a significant disparity, with only 75 out of 276 films released in 2021 eligible for Best Picture being directed by at least one woman.
Remarkably enough, Anthony Slide, a film historian, notes in his 1996 book “The Silent Feminists” that “during the first three decades of its existence, the American film industry, in many ways, was a woman’s world.”
Slide points out a specific 1920 volume on Careers for Women, in which one entire chapter was devoted to the occupation of film-directing. A prominent Universal screenwriter and director wrote the piece. Ida May Park, Lois Weber, Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, Ruth Ann Baldwin are few of the women who held the industry’s grip in the epoch.
Then why do we see such gender disparities a hundred years later after Alice Guy, the world’s first motion picture director, came to the United States and directed 354 films, atop of the 400 films she had already directed in France?
Not only is the question shadowy enough, but the fact that such little attention has been paid to the leading pioneer female directors in America speaks volumes of the state of the industry today!
In this climate, women directors struggle to land jobs and projects they identify with and want to pursue. Their talent is used by producers and studios to restrictively fit “chick-flicks” and “girly” categories.
As a matter of fact, Dr. Martha Lauzen cites Film Director Robin Swicord explaining that “what you tend to see is women being offered movies like “My Favorite Martian” and “Never Been Kissed”—non-Academy, lower-status fare, comedies, movies about dogs and baby geniuses. I get offered things all the time where they say, ‘We want a female voice.’ Well, I don’t write with my vagina.”
In reality, women are more than willing to work across genres, explore different narratives and be more than just “a female voice.”
Applying Kimberlé Crenshaw’s concept of intersectionality, we can confidently say Latina directors experience even harder challenges and hurdles to get their work on the screen. According to 2018 data from the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, “the intersectional invisibility of women of color reveals just how far Hollywood must go to reach equality.”
We’ve said it before: representation in media matters. It does. We are not getting tired of saying it for as long as there is still the need to remind people of it unceasingly. And Latina directors are making sure to provide us with the representative stories we so dismally crave.
Here are some Latinas that are currently helping with representation and reshaping the industry:
Gloria Calderón Kellett
Gloria Calderón Kellett, who sometimes calls herself Tía Glo, continues to wow us with her creations. Calderón Kellett is a multi-hyphenated Cuban-American; she’s a showrunner, director, writer, and actress. This Latina is constantly pushing forth diversity in her storylines and it is evident in her recent storylines, “One Day at a Time,” where she was a co-showrunner, and “With Love,” her first title where she was the top creator. Both shows feature the essence of Latine families in which she ensures our community’s voices and narratives aren’t white-washed.
Aside from helping put Latine shows on the mainstream map, she also uses her voice to demand more recognition for Latines in film and media. There is a need for Latine’s voices and she’s letting the world know.
Hey @ABCNetwork You moved the ONE Latine show you have to Hulu and @TheAcademy claims to want to embrace diversity. How about the rare time that Latine people have a movie nominated for an OSCAR you invite the lead. Latine people are 18.5% of this country. ENOUGH! pic.twitter.com/FBbi8R4QQm
— Gloria Calderón Kellett (@everythingloria) March 20, 2022
Anna Muylaert is a Brazilian screenwriter and director who studied filmmaking at the School of Communications and Arts at the University of São Paulo. Starting her career as a film and later as a television writer and producer, Muylaert directed her first Film in 2002. Her 2015 film Que Horas Ela Volta? about a Brazilian maid, won the Berlin International Film Festival in the same year. And 2016’s Mãe só há uma won a Jury Prize at the Teddy Awards for LGBT-related films at the festival.
Our third directora is…
Aurora Guerrero. Queer Chicana from San Francisco, CA. Director for ep. 7 “Brown Love” ❤️❤️❤️ & ep.8 “Women’s Work” 👗✂️ pic.twitter.com/T04xm1DX5R
— Gentefied (@gentefied) March 27, 2020
This queer Chicana from California is an independent writer/director whose narrative work frequently investigates the intersection of the working class, queer, and people of color. Guerrero focuses on cooperative work with her communities creating art forms that offer opportunities for dialogue and education. Her 2012 film “Mosquita y Mari,“ a queer, coming-of-age story, earned her a nomination to the Film Independent Spirit Awards the same year.
Mexican director, producer, screenwriter, editor, and documentary filmmaker, studied Film Direction at the National Film and Television School and the Center for Film Studies at UNAM University. Her 2015 “Los Reyes del Pueblo Que No Existe” has won over 50 international awards, including Zurich Film Festival for Best International Documentary Film. The film centers on three families in the devastated Mexican countryside, partially submerged by water, and their refusal to leave their home, despite everything.
Born in Lima, this film director, writer, producer, and author has been nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Award at the Oscars. Her 2009 “La teta asustada” addresses the fears of abused women during Peru’s recent history; the Film won the Golden Bear award and FIPRESCI prize at the Berlin International Film Festival.
In January of that year, the afro-Panamanian writer, director, and photographer won the Grand Jury Prize for Narrative Short at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival with her comedy, drama, short film Gregory Go Boom. Her 2020 film, “Zola,” is inspired on a 148-tweet thread by Detroit waitress Aziah “Zola” about a trip she took to Florida with a sex worker named Jessica.
The Argentine film actress, producer, Film and television director, and screenplay writer is the current Chair of the NYU Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Film Program in New York City. Her 2017 “Nadie Nos Mira,” centered on the self-imposed exile of an Argentine actor in New York, won Solomonoff Best Original Screenplay at the Argentinean Film Critics Association Awards. Similarly, her 2009’s “El último Verano de la Boyita” won for Best Director at the 2010 Kerala International Film Festival.
With over one hundred and twenty directing credits on her IMDB alone, Mendoza is a powerhouse and a force to be reckoned with. She was nominated in 2020 for Primetime Emmy Awards for the episode “Flame Monroe” in “Tiffany Haddish Presents: They Ready.” Mendoza has worked on projects such as Brooklyn 99, Ugly Betty, All About the Washingtons, One Day At A Time, Black-ish, The Mindy Project, and Grown-ish.
The Argentine film director, screenwriter, and producer has had her films featured frequently in festivals in Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Toronto, and more. Martel’s 2001 debut, “La Ciénaga,” deals with social issues, questioning Argentine society. The Holy Girl, Lucrecia’s powerful drama of love, sex, misunderstanding, and coming-of-age, was executively produced by Pedro Almodóvar, and it won Best Director at the Clarin Entertainment Awards.
Born in El Salvador, the journalist and documentary director focuses on socially conscious themes, and it’s centered around gender and human rights. In 2010, “María en tierra de nadie,” her first long-form documentary, tells the journey and story of three Salvadoran women migrants who traveled 3,000 kilometers to the United States and were victims and witnesses of kidnapping, murder, rape, and robbery in their challenging voyage.
The Mexican filmmaker, actress, and published author is a two-time Emmy award-winning young promise. With over 50 credits in various crew positions, Gómez directed 2019’s Latinos + Film + USA, a short documentary that provides an insight into the daily battles young Latino filmmakers face to make a name for themselves in the industry. In 2021, the filmmaker shared her experience, dreams, and hurdles with BELatina here.
The Venezuelan cinema director, screenwriter, producer, and visual artist studied at Escuela Internacional de Cine y Televisión in Cuba. Along with other Latin American filmmakers, she created the Andean Multinational Company “Sudaca Films” in 1999. Her 2013 drama “Pelo Malo” has over forty-five awards, from which the “Astor de Plata” to Best Director at the 2013 Mar del Plata Festival and Golden Seashell at San Sebastián International Film Festival stand out.