The Academy has finally nominated a female cinematographer.
After 90 long years of exclusively male nominees, Rachel Morrison has made history as the first woman nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography. Morrison has been working as a cinematographer on feature films since 2007. Some of her most notable credits are Fruitvale Station, Dope, Cake and Sound of my Voice. She earned the well-deserved Oscar nomination for 2017’s Mudbound.
Morrison tweeted out her reaction to the nomination with encouraging words of support for female filmmakers and cinematographers:
Today’s Oscar nom couldn’t have seemed further away not long ago so I hope it tells all the dreamers out there (especially the young girls with cameras in their hands) that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. Thank you to Dee Rees and to the Academy for making my dream a reality. #oscarnoms
— Rachel Morrison (@morrisondp) January 23, 2018
Morrison being the first women to achieve this honor is very exciting, particularly considering her filmography. She has frequently been a part of projects that celebrate diversity and tell the stories of the marginalized. For example, Mudbound is about two families, one white and one black, in rural Mississippi in the 1940s. The film explores racism, the post-World War II political climate, and PTSD.
Mudbound is just one of the many films from Morrison’s career that depicts an important and under-told story. In 2013, She collaborated with director Ryan Coogler on Fruitvale Station. The film tells the true story of Oscar Grant, a young black man who was wrongly murdered by a police officer in California in 2009. There is also Any Day Now, a 2012 film about a gay couple who take in an abandoned 14-year-old with down syndrome, and the ensuing legal battle to keep their family together. The list goes on, but a final example is the 2016 television film Confirmation. The film tells the true story of Anita Hill’s sexual harassment claims against Supreme Court Nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991. All of these films give voice to the type of characters we don’t often see in mainstream cinema.
The Oscars’ diversity problem
In the Academy’s 90-year history, male-dominated Oscar categories have been commonplace. This complete lack of female representation in cinematography speaks to the larger issue of a lack of diversity in the film industry. Fortunately, in the wake of 2016’s Oscars So White controversy, the Academy has made a notable effort to celebrate more diverse filmmakers and actors. For example, the Best Director category is also often all-male, but Greta Gerwig earned a nomination this year. She is only the fifth women ever to do so.
Dee Rees, director and co-writer of Mudbound, also made history this year. Rees is the first black woman to be nominated for the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. The fact that many believe she was snubbed for a Best Director nomination is worth noting — the Academy still has work to do. For now, though, the Oscars finally honoring women for their work behind the camera is inspirational to see.
Fans of Morrison’s work, as well as those new to the cinematographer, should be excited for the upcoming Black Panther (in theaters this February). The film marks her second collaboration with director Ryan Coogler. With Black Panther, Morrison will once again be making history: she is the first woman to shoot a Marvel Cinematic Universe film. Morrison is blazing a trail for female cinematographers, so be sure to check out her work if you haven’t already.
Watch this by video essay by Nelson Carvajal to look back on Morrison’s impressive career and to celebrate her well-deserved Oscar nomination for Mudbound.