Female directors triumph in Oscar nominations. But why is ‘Judas’ the only Black-led film in the best picture race?

The Oscar nominations have arrived and they were huge for inclusion – well, to a point.

The Academy made noticeable progress with Monday’s announcement, particularly in the acting and directing categories, though the best picture race still leaned heavily white. 

Good news first: Among performers, it’s the most diverse slate of nominees ever — and a far cry from the all-white acting nominees that spawned the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag five years ago. Nine of the 20 acting nominees are people of color.

But disparity showed in the best picture race. Eight films were nominated for best picture, including the Fred Hampton drama “Judas and the Black Messiah” – but other predominantly Black-led films were not included, like “Da 5 Bloods,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “One Night in Miami.” (Regina King also missed out on a nomination for best director.) Oscar rules allow up to 10 films be nominated.

Oscar nominations 2021: ‘Mank’ leads with 10 honors, Viola Davis makes history

That said, this is the first year more than one woman has been nominated for best director. Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”) and Chloe Zhao (“Nomadland”) each scored nominations. Zhao also became the first woman of color ever nominated in the category. Only five women had been previously nominated for best director in history. 

“My heart is racing,” said Melissa Silverstein, founder and publisher of Women and Hollywood told USA TODAY in an e-mail shortly after the nominations were announced. “I was praying for one (best director nominee) and hoping for two and when they announced the three men first I was like OMG, OMG, OMG and then I just let out a big sigh. It is the sigh of so many women who have been overlooked for so long.”

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