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The Woman King Director Says Oscars Overlook Black Women

Viola Davis
Ilze Kitshoff/Sony Pictures
Viola Davis is seen here in TriStar Pictures' 'The Woman King.'

Gina Prince-Bythewood wrote that The Woman King not being nominated for any category is "a reflection of where the Academy stands and the consistent chasm between Black excellence and recognition."

(CNN) — If you're wondering why Gina Prince-Bythewood's film The Woman King — which stars Oscar winner Viola Davis and garnered an A+ Cinemascore — was shut out of the Oscars race this year, you're not alone.

In a first-person article for The Hollywood Reporter published on Tuesday, Prince-Bythewood reflected on the exclusion of her film by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the governing body responsible for the prestigious awards), which she says left her "disappointed."

"But the Academy made a very loud statement, and for me to stay quiet is to accept that statement," she wrote, adding that she rejects the term "snub" in reference to The Woman King because "a snub is if it missed out on a category or two" and her film "was not nominated for one single craft."

Prince-Bythewood said that she "agreed to speak up, on behalf of Black women" who also had their work overlooked this year — like director Chinonye Chukwu and actress Danielle Deadwyler of Till — "and for those who haven't even stepped on a set yet."

She wrote that The Woman King, which is on track to pass $100 million at the global box office, not being nominated for any category is "a reflection of where the Academy stands and the consistent chasm between Black excellence and recognition. And, sadly, this is not just an issue in Hollywood but in every industry."

The director — who was behind 2000's Love & Basketball and 2020's The Old Guard — also made reference to the controversy surrounding Andrea Riseborough's surprise nomination for best actress, which some felt led to Davis being left out of the category.

"My issue with what happened is how people in the industry use their social capital — screenings in their homes, personal calls, personal emails, personal connections, elevated status," Prince-Bythewood wrote. "People like to say, 'Well, Viola and Danielle [Deadwyler, who was also did not earn a nomination] had studios behind them.' But we just very clearly saw that social capital is more valuable than that."

Riseborough's eyebrow-raising nomination was held up by the Academy, following a review of the film's celebrity-backed grassroots campaign.

Prince-Bythewood lamented that "there is no groundswell from privileged people with enormous social capital to get behind Black women. There never has been."

For its part, the Academy has made efforts in recent years to expand and diversify its membership, following the uproar over #OscarsSoWhite and the movement spearheaded by April Reign.

In 2020, the Academy put in place a rule that movies must meet certain criteria in terms of representation in order to be eligible for the Academy Award for best picture beginning in 2024.

CNN has reached out to both representatives for Prince-Bythewood and the Academy for comment.

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Dan Heching