Slumdog Millionaire won top honors at both the Screen Actors Guild awards and the Golden Globes. The frontrunner for Oscar’s best picture is a rich Indian cultural experience, with a third of the film in Hindi, and the controversial employment of actual children from the streets. Many of the film’s key cultural decisions were made by Loveleen Tandan, who started out as a casting director but was promoted by director Danny Boyle. She now has the credit of co-director for India.
The absence of nominations for Tandan for any directing awards, and the fact that she apparently wasn’t invited to be present at the ceremonies so far, has raised questions about the proper acknowlegement of women and people of color in filmmaking. Women in Hollywood’s Melissa Silverstein wrote about the controversy in December. Chicago-based critic & blogger Jan Lisa Huttner of Women in the Audience Supporting Women Artists Now launched a write-in campaign to the Oscars on Loveleen’s behalf. Ms. Tandan expressed her own feelings about her credit and nomination status by writing to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association “I can’t tell you how embarrassed I am by this.”
The Slumdog Millionaire co-director controversy raises valid issues about women’s roles as directors and as cultural guides. Only three women have ever been nominated for a best director Oscar, and none has ever won. We hope that will change soon, and maybe Loveleen Tandan will be the woman to do it with one of her future films. Until then, please support women filmmakers like the women of Chica Luna doing incredible work here in New York helping women of color tell their stories through film. You can also support women artists just by going to see films directed by women, who direct only about 4% of all Hollywood films made or by supporting the Alliance of Women Directors and our friends and partners at New York Women in Film and TV.