On Sunday, April 25, 2021, the world’s most famous and sought-for cinema prize will be awarded: the 93rd prizegiving ceremony of the Academy Awards will be held at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles, two months later than originally scheduled, owing to the situation we are all well aware of.

Yet the most striking novelty is that this year, for the first time, the Academy will select the best director from a pool of five finalists, two of which are women: Emerald Fennel, director of Promising Young Woman, and Chloe Zhao with Nomadland. They are the sixth and seventh woman, respectively, to be nominated for this prestigious accolade.

Should Chloe Zhao win, she would become the first non-white woman to claim the award. Emerald Fennel, on the other hand, holds another record: she is the third woman who has received three nominations in one year (after Sofia Coppola and Fran Walsh).

Records aside, though, the two nominated women directors – whom we hope will soon no longer be the exception, but the rule – have been nominated for films that are both important and appealing. A great Carey Mulligan stars in Promising young woman, portraying the angry lead character of a revenge-drama, determined to take on the man who raped her best friend in college.

Nomadland, which features another exceptional actress, Frances McDormand, is about a 60 year-old woman, a jobless widow, who ends up touring the western United States on a truck. The film, based on a successful novel, was shot in a number of locations and much of its cast are not actors, but people Jessica Bruder – author of the novel the film is based on – met when writing it, and other people Chloe Zhao and her film crew came across on the streets, while filming in South Dakota, Nebraska, Arizona, Nevada and California. 

Thus, the women film-directors running for the best director award tell two very feminine stories which steer clear of the usual stereotypes, perhaps also telling us that films should finally start telling stories about women capable of standing out, leaving the floor to them.