The Woman King Director Reflects On Not Getting Nominated For Academy Awards, And The Lack Of Black Filmmakers Represented At The Oscars

Viola Davis and tribe in The Woman King
(Image credit: Sony)

The Woman King, Till, and Saint Omer, at one point or another, were all considered strong Academy Award contenders, and then they were all left off the list of 2023 Oscar nominees. The common denominator among all these films is they are made by Black female filmmakers. Now, Gina Prince-Bythewood, the director of The Woman King, is reflecting on what happened, and the lack of Black filmmakers nominated at this year’s Oscars. 

Prince-Bythewood’s The Woman King, Chinonye Chukwu’s Till and Alice Diop’s Saint Omer were all left off the list, and now, The Woman King director is opening up to THR about her film and these other filmmakers’ being left out. She pointed out that it’s disappointing her film wasn’t nominated, however, it can’t be forgotten that the movie is a success. She explained that she felt the need to speak about The Academy’s omission, saying:

The Woman King wasn’t snubbed. A snub is if it missed out on a category or two. The film was not nominated for one single craft. Not one single extraordinary performance was recognized. And when has that happened for a successful film that hit all the so-called markers? It’s not a snub. It’s a reflection of where the Academy stands and the consistent chasm between Black excellence and recognition. And, sadly, this is not just an issue in Hollywood but in every industry.

Throughout the Academy’s history, there have been many times when Black filmmakers, actors and craftspeople have been left off the nominations list. This year is similar, with Prince-Bythewood being among three women left of the list for Best Director. Along with the director, two Black actresses were snubbed, and four films made by Black filmmakers were shut out from the ceremony entirely. Pince-Bythewood pointed out that no Black filmmaker has ever won Best Director in the 95-year history of the Academy Awards, and no Black women have been nominated. She explained that she thinks this is because people simply are not willing to watch their movies:

As I moved through this awards season, I was struck by the Academy members who simply didn’t want to see the film. People thought it was a compliment at some of our screenings to tell me they had to be dragged there, because they didn’t think it was a film for them, or spoke of contemporaries who couldn’t be convinced to come with them, and being so surprised by how much they loved the film. To hear that over and over, it’s tough to stomach.

The director went on, talking about how she went and saw other critical and financial hits like Everything Everywhere All at Once and Top Gun: Maverick because they were good, and then posed the question:

We, Black women, do not get that same grace. So the question we need to ask is, ‘Why is it so hard to relate to the work of your Black peers?’ What is this inability of Academy voters to see Black women, and their humanity, and their heroism, as relatable to themselves?

Viola Davis and Gina Pince0Bythewood talking on the set of The Woman King

(Image credit: Sony)

She also brought up the Best Actress race, which caused some of the biggest Oscar shocks as well as snubs for this year’s Academy Awards. Both Viola Davis and Danielle Deadwyler were not nominated for their performances as the leader of The Woman King cast and the mother in Till, respectively, even though they were both recognized at other major awards shows this season. 

Along with the three directors mentioned by Prince-Bythewood, there was also a lot of POC talent left out of the Oscar nominations this year making The Woman King director’s point clearer.  

The Woman King will be available to those with a Netflix subscription on February 16.

Riley Utley
Weekend Editor

Riley Utley is the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. She has written for national publications as well as daily and alt-weekly newspapers in Spokane, Washington, Syracuse, New York and Charleston, South Carolina. She graduated with her master’s degree in arts journalism and communications from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. Since joining the CB team she has covered numerous TV shows and movies -- including her personal favorite shows Ted Lasso and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. She also has followed and consistently written about everything from Taylor Swift to Fire Country, and she's enjoyed every second of it.