The phrase “Satanic feminist art film” will get you laughed out most rooms that aren’t a liberal arts classroom or the Hot Topic in your hometown mall, so it should come as no surprise that A24 struggled to brand The Witch for audiences upon its wide release in 2016. Written and directed by first-time feature filmmaker Robert Eggers, The Witch is a horror movie by almost any standard, riddled with the genre’s usual tropes of supernatural possession, exorcism and things that go bump in the night, but it has little regard for audience expectations. By relying on period-appropriate language (“Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?”) and opting for meditation in place of jump scares, The Witch left hardcore horror fans wanting and others asking, “What did I just watch?”
In the Twitter bio of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, it reads “we champion the power of human imagination.” In the last ninety years of the academy’s existence however, this “human imagination” has been overwhelmingly straight, white and male. In this year’s Oscar nominations alone, only one of the five directors nominated for best director was a woman (Greta Gerwig for “Lady Bird”) and her presence in the prestigious lineup marked the end of an eight year dry spell of the exclusive “boys club” of male directors in the category. Dee Rees (Mudbound) was snubbed of a best director nomination, marking yet another year that no women of color were nominated for best director. What was truly shocking was that this year marked the very first time that a woman was nominated for best cinematographer (Rachel Morrison for “Mudbound”) in the entire history of the Academy Awards.