As the Oscar flurry descends, let us remember Kathryn Bigelow: the first and only woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director, for her 2008 war thriller film The Hurt Locker.
Kathryn spent her early adulthood honing her artistic sensibilities as a painter in 1970s Manhattan (and running an apartment-flipping business with composer Philip Glass), before pivoting to film as a way to reach wider audiences than the rarified world of fine art. She has helmed nine features from the directors chair, gaining praise as an auteur for works that re-imagine the rules of action cinema while exploring representations of race and gender.
Her films have been criticized for intense portrayals of violence and torture, but she shrugs that off, saying, “Depiction isn’t endorsement … I don’t want to be made pacified or made comfortable. I like stuff that gets your adrenaline going.” Kathryn’s next project promises to fit this signature mold: an as-yet untitled work on the Detroit race riots of 1967, due out later this year.
After the awards ceremony back in ’09, a reporter asked Kathryn about her reluctance to brand herself as a female director, considering her win’s significance to women in the industry. She replied, “I’d love to just think of myself as a filmmaker, and I wait for the day when the modifier can be a moot point.” But that day won’t be Sunday. Kathryn will keep her title for at least another year: 2017’s Best Director field is wall-to-wall men.