First woman nominated for best director Oscar dies at 93

Lina Wertmuller is honored with a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2019. Photo: Getty Images
Lina Wertmuller is honored with a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2019. Photo: Getty Images
Italian writer-director Lina Wertmuller, the first woman ever to be nominated for best director at the Academy Awards, has died at the age of 93, the culture ministry said on Thursday.

A filmmaker since the early 1960s, Wertmuller took world cinema by storm with her politically charged films of the 1970s, including The Seduction of MimiLove and Anarchy and Swept Away. Her Oscar nomination came in 1977 for Seven Beauties.

"Italy mourns the passing of Lina Wertmuller, a director who, with her class and unmistakable style, left an everlasting mark on our and the world's cinema," Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said in a statement.

Wertmuller received a lifetime achievement award from the Oscars film academy in 2019 and took advantage of the occasion to call out Hollywood for tending to favour men.

"She would like to change the name Oscar to Anna," actress Isabella Rossellini said as she translated Wertmuller’s acceptance speech from Italian to English.

She reached her critical peak in the 1970s, after which her public profile faded, although she continued to make films for many years. Her last movie, Too Much Romance ... It's Time for Stuffed Peppers, starring F. Murray Abraham and Sophia Loren, was released in 2004.

In an interview with Reuters at the time, Wertmuller said her artistic vision had remained strong though she had failed to find a US distributor for her films for a decade.

"Even American artists are terrorised by market forces," she said. "If one can't see the films, my wings are clipped."

A woman wouldn't be nominated again in the best director category at the Oscars until 20 years later when Kiwi director Jane Campion was nominated for The Piano.

Since then five more women have been nominated, Sofia Coppola, Kathryn Bigelow, Greta Gerwig, Emerald Fennell and Chloe Zhao. Bigelow became this first woman to win in 2009, for The Hurt Locker and Zhao became the second, last year, for her film Nomadland. 




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