This year the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has a chance to do something that has never been done before: Award a black man or a woman the Best Director Oscar. Lee Daniels, the African-American director of "Precious", and Kathryn Bigelow, the director of "The Hurt Locker", have been garnering much attention for their films.
"The Hurt Locker" deals with an elite Army bomb squad in Iraq. "Precious" is about a young, illiterate and obese girl who is impregnated for the second time by her father and is abused by her mother. Both films have been raved about by critics and called gritty returns to American cinema.
The Oscar for Best Director is an award that, unlike Oscars for the acting categories, has gone to white males. Ang Lee, who won for 2005's "Brokeback Mountain", is the only non-white director to ever win the Oscar. There have been three women to be nominated over the years, none ever winning. There has been only one African-American to ever be nominated (John Singleton in 1991 for "Boyz in the Hood").
Though the nominations haven't been released yet, with the popularity of "The Hurt Locker" and "Precious" it seems improbable that the directors of these films will not be recognized. The various Guilds, the Golden Globes, and festivals throughout the country and in Europe have praised these films with nominations and prizes.
Why is it though that this hasn't already happened? Why has the Academy failed to recognize any one who isn't a white male? It isn't as if white men are the only ones making movies. There are great films that are made all over the world by people of every race and color. There are stories that can be and need to be told by someone who isn't a white male. The failure of their films to be recognized shows young film makers who aspire to be successful that if you're skin is different or if you're not a man then you won't be taken seriously or be given recognition.
If American cinema is to continue to evolve it must grow culturally and ethnically. Hopefully the success of these films will encourage more women and people of different backgrounds to direct. As far as the growth of the Academy is concerned, nothing can be said until March 7th.