The Academy Awards 2010 made history in presenting the Oscar for Best Director to a woman film-maker, Kathryn Bigelow, for her critically acclaimed movie The Hurt Locker. She beat her ex-husband James Cameron (Avatar), Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds), Lee Daniels (Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire) and Jason Reitman (Up in the Air). Bigelow also became the first woman ever to win a best director award at the BAFTA held recently.
A woman directing a movie is no big deal. But Bigelow is a HUGE deal because she had the gumption to direct not just a male-centric movie, but also a movie that was raw, gory and intense, while going deep into the psyche of men and warfare, and delivering to the world, a war movie that demands to be watched. Her sheer energy at 58, her passion for cinema, her dedication to her calling and her ability to bring out gritty performances from actors have made her one of the most sought-after directors now. Getting nominated for an Oscar was also a big feat. Only three other female directors have been nominated thus far: Lina Wertmüller in 1975 for Seven Beauties, Jane Campion in 1993 for The Piano and Sofia Coppola in 2003 for Lost in Translation.
The Hurt Locker is a thriller based on the Iraq war and the title is slang for being injured in an explosion or ‘place of ultimate pain’. It is an unconventional and realistic presentation of the terrifying task of men who diffuse bombs on a daily basis. Mark Boal (screenplay) went to the scene of action to get the story. Bigelow gives credit to Boal in her speech, saying, “I would not be standing here if it was not for Mark Boal who risked his life and wrote such an extraordinary screenplay.” While accepting her award, Bigelow also said, “This really is the moment of a lifetime… I think the secret to directing is collaborating and I had truly an extraordinary group of collaborators in my crew.” She thanked everyone involved in making the film and dedicated her award to the people in the military. After accepting the award for Best Director, Bigelow was called back to the stage to accept the award for Best Picture. All together The Hurt Locker won 6 Oscars including best Editor, Best Sound, Best Sound Editing and Best Screenplay.
Bigelow’s movies so far: The Loveless (1982), a biker movie; Near Dark (1987), which she co-scripted with Eric Red; Blue Steel (1990); Point Break (1991); her 1995 film Strange Days (written and produced by her ex-husband James Cameron); her 2000 film,The Weight of Water and her 2002 movie K-19: The Widowmaker (starring Harrison Ford). A casual glance at this list shows that these movies were all male-centric, action-oriented projects that beat the stereotype that Bigelow would have gone into from the late ’80s onwards. You got to hand it to her, when you beat a colossus like Avatar, there’s got to be some substance to your work and Bigelow proves that she’s a woman of substance all the way.