Following a breakthrough Oscar season in which Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”) became the fifth woman nominated for Best Director, the 2018-19 awards season has unfortunately gone back to the trend of snubbing female filmmakers. In a year in which Chloé Zhao (“The Rider”), Lynne Ramsay (“You Were Never Really Here”), Tamara Jenkins (“Private Life”), and Debra Granik (“Leave No Trace”) all delivered major works, among other women directors, it’s glaring that other awards-giving bodies like the HFPA and its Golden Globes failed to nominated a single female for Best Director.
In an exclusive statement given to IndieWire, “The Piano” and “Bright Star” director Jane Campion shares her frustration with the lack of attention on female directors this Oscar season and stumps hard for Granik. “Leave No Trace” was one of the best reviewed films out of Sundance at the start of 2018 and went on to earn a rare 100% on Rotten Tomatoes from 199 reviews when it opened in theaters over the summer.
“Leave No Trace” stars Ben Foster and newcomer Thomasin McKenzie as a father and daughter living off the grid whose relationship is tested when they are discovered and forced to live a more domesticated life. Campion knows a thing or two about breaking the Oscars glass ceiling (she was nominated for Best Director with “The Piano”), and she beautifully articulates below why Granik should be a major Oscar player.
Read Campion’s full statement on Granik and “Leave No Trace” below.
The Golden Globes have just nominated 5 men for Best Director. And the AFI have issued their list of 10 Best Films of 2018 without a single film directed by a woman. I haven’t seen all these films, but I do want to reflect on one film that I’ve seen this year which I believe deserves continued attention — Debra Granik’s LEAVE NO TRACE starring Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie.
Over the last 20 years, Debra has become one of the most important voices in American cinema. And her film LEAVE NO TRACE is certainly one of the most moving dramas of the year. It has an extraordinary 100% on Rotten Tomatoes after 200 reviews. Debra’s work with actors is intimate and powerful. She has discovered actors before — or given them the chance to shine in leading roles — including Vera Farmiga in DOWN TO THE BONE; Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes in WINTER’S BONE (for which they were both Oscar nominated); and now Ben Foster & Thomasin McKenzie in LEAVE NO TRACE. In this film she has created a context in which McKenzie can exist with a candor and an authenticity rarely seen on screen.
LEAVE NO TRACE is a story between a father and a daughter. Even when it becomes apparent that Will (Ben Foster) might be putting Tom (Thomasin McKenzie) in danger — despite the fact that he believes he’s protecting her — Granik never loses sympathy for her characters or lets us forget what is special in their relationship. She focuses on characters we hardly ever see in films. She’s drawn to outsiders in marginalized communities and has honed a new kind of “social realism” for today.
After watching LEAVE NO TRACE, I was moved that in a time of increasing political polarization, Debra reveals the goodness in people. She doesn’t need villains to tell a compelling story. Whether it’s social workers, youth clubs, church groups, labourers or fringe communities, Debra shows people who are trying to make a difference in other people’s lives. This is a film filled with compassion and I would say with honesty — and it has had a powerful impact on audiences. Not because it is loud. It is delicate and intimate. But because the truth that Granik speaks quietly can be heard even in a noisy world.
I am delighted that Debra has been nominated for Best Director at the Spirit Awards and won Best Director from the LA Film Critics. This is far-sighted recognition. I believe she should be part of the Best Director Oscar conversation.