Oscars: How the Doc Branch Puts Women and International Stories Front and Centre (Column)

For female filmmakers in the industry, this year’s round of Oscar nominations – in which acclaimed female-helmed films such as “Hustlers” and “The Farewell” were shut out in place of male-directed Best Picture nominees predominantly centred on stories of white men – told a frustratingly familiar story.

But in the Academy’s non-fiction branch, a different narrative was being written.Not only did the Best Documentary Feature category achieve directorial gender parity, with four female and four male nominees, but female filmmakers led men overall, with 13 nominees to 12 across both feature and doc short categories.The branch celebrated newcomers such as Waad al-Kateab (“For Sama”), Tamara Kotevska (“Honeyland”) and Smriti Mundhra (“St.

Louis Superman”); mid-career filmmakers such as Sigrid Dyekjær (“The Cave”) and Joanna Natasegara (“The Edge of Democracy”); and established documentarians such as Julia Reichert (“American Factory”).The latter duo both achieved remarkable feats that garnered little mainstream press coverage:

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