Why Aren’t We Talking About Women Talking?

Media provided by Orion Pictures

In the last two years, women have consecutively won the Oscar for best director. Yet this year, despite the praise surrounding Sarah Polley’s Women Talking, there wasn’t a single woman nominated. 

It is rare to find appreciated female directors, especially at the Oscars. In all of Oscars history, only three women have ever won best director, two of which were in 2021 and 2022, which begs the question—did the Oscars only use Jane Champion and Chloe Zhao to check off “female directors” from their politically correct checklist? Sarah Polley’s snub may be proof. 

When I sat down to watch Women Talking in theaters, I knew little to nothing about the movie. By the end of it, I was a blubbering mess. Based on a true story, the movie depicts an isolated Mennonite community that has undergone generational cycles of physical and sexual abuse against their women. Unbeknownst to the men, a group of women are elected to make the decision for their colony: should they stay and fight, leave the colony (including their husbands and sons), or do nothing? 

The entire movie is predominantly set in one hayloft of a barn, following the conversation. As the title suggests, women talk. Surprisingly, there is only one male speaking role at all. I don’t believe the film was perfect, but it sure was powerful, and deserves recognition for the excellent directing done by Sarah Polley.

The 6 nominees for Best Director at the Oscars this year are: Martin McDonagh for The Banshees of Inisherin, Ruben Östlund for Triangle of Sadness, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Sheinert for Everything Everywhere All At Once, Steven Spielberg for The Fablemans, and Todd Field for Tár

Don’t get me wrong, I loved all of the movies nominated and believe that the six directors nominated deserved their recognition! But, if we’re going purely off of Rotten Tomatoes scores, Triangle of Sadness is rated a 72% by critics and audience while Women Talking sits at a 91%. The other nominees’ “Tomatometer” scores are all in the same range as Women Talking’s as well, give or take a few percentages. 

In an interview with Vogue, Sarah Polley explained her thoughts on the academy’s treatment towards women in film: “It’s about big systemic change, not performative gestures. Over the last few years, I’ve seen some really good gestures—that’s better than nothing, but it’s not getting to the root of the problem.” 

Moving forward, she says, “it’s not just about representation—it’s about acknowledgement. It’s about whether we’re ignoring it or not.” 

The Grace Gazette interviewed Altea P. ‘23 about her experience being a woman in Grace Church’s film major. 

“We are definitely given the same opportunities as our male counterparts, but, inevitably,” Altea said, “men tend to unintentionally dominate the classroom, both in conversation and in media we consume.” 

This is a common feeling amongst women in the film industry, no matter age or professionalism. Though Altea notices this discrepancy, she also commented on the sorority she feels with her peers, saying, “I love to work with my fellow female classmates in creating films we’re passionate about. I was really glad to come together with them to make our female-led PSA, a satire on the lack of period products at school, in the fall.” 

The 2020 Oscars was the first time two women had been nominated for Best Director simultaneously. As consumers, we had hopes for a brighter future for female directors. Nonetheless, the Oscars  proved yet again that they don’t value female creators in their academy. As we look forward, I hope to see women appreciated more in the industry, both by audiences and professionals. 

Women Talking will be streaming for free on Amazon Prime for Oscars weekend, and I encourage you to watch. 

Happy Women’s History Month!