Barbra Streisand: people in the industry ‘don’t want to see a woman director’

Barbra Streisand showed up at the Tribeca Film Festival over the weekend, wearing this ^^^ dynamite all black ensemble. Barbra was interviewed by director Robert Rodriguez for a Tribeca Talks: Storytellers event and covered a wide range of topics like her father dying when she was only 15 months old and her fascination with Johnny Mathis. But much of the discussion centered around Barbra’s efforts as a director and why women have never been regarded in Hollywood. According to Barbra, she’s never received an Oscar nomination because of the bias against women directors. A bias, she says, that belongs to both men and women. Barbra said that when it comes to critique of her directing, women have been more critical of her then men and that is something we need to get better at.

Barbra Streisand argued that sexism cost her Oscar nominations for “Yentl” and “The Prince of Tides” during a spirited public interview at the Tribeca Film Festival on Saturday. But it wasn’t just men who balked at the idea of a woman calling the shots on a major motion picture.

“There were a lot of older people,” Streisand told her interlocutor Robert Rodriguez. “They don’t want to see a woman director.”

“I don’t know how many women wanted to see a woman director,” she added.

Streisand said that jealousy and competitiveness are partly to blame for women turning on one of their own gender.  As evidence, she claimed that female critics were harsher than their male counterparts to “Yentl.” Three decades after the drama’s release, a review by former New York Times critic Janet Maslin still seemed to rankle the recording star and filmmaker. She remained put out by Maslin’s reference to Streisand’s use of a “pillbox-contoured designer yarmulke” in the film.

“None of [the female critics] talked about what the movie was trying to say,” Streisand said. “It was not about what the movie was about — a celebration of women and all they could be.”

Oh, and for the record, Streisand said the yarmulke was authentic to the film’s early 20th century Polish setting.

“Yentl,” the story of a woman who dresses like a man so she can study Talmudic Law, was nominated for five Oscars, missing out on a Best Picture nod. “The Prince of Tides,” a drama about an emotionally damaged man who falls for his psychiatrist, got seven nominations, included film of the year. In both cases, Streisand’s name was left off the director’s short list. Eight years separated the two films.

Streisand said she was pleased that being overlooked focused attention on discrimination towards women, but she said the experience of being snubbed for “Yentl” had something to do with her long hiatus.

“I must have been more hurt than I thought, because I didn’t want to direct for years,” she said.

[From Variety]

To be honest, I don’t remember Yentl or Prince of Tides that well so I can’t remember if I thought Barbra deserved to be nominated. I do know the films were well received so I’m inclined to think she did. I like the fact that Barbra is driving home that this is not solely a men vs. women situation and that many women had a hand in trying to keep her in her lane. I’m curious about the reviews of Yentl that hurt her so much. Is that exclusive to female directors, that critics don’t listen to the message, only the aesthetics? If true, life really does imitate art, doesn’t it? Just shut your mouth and look pretty. Barbra started directing after Sydney Pollack, who was a good friend, cut two scenes from The Way We Were that she found critical. She became a director to be heard, which I love. However, her career progression in general shocked me, “I would say I’m an actress first, only because I started singing because I couldn’t get a job as an actress, and I started directing because I couldn’t be heard as an actress.” Let that sink in for a moment – there was a time when Barbra was not pursuing a career as a singer. That can’t be right, can it? I don’t want to live in that world.

However, possibly the most surprising part of the interview was the fact that Rodriguez was the one to interview her. The reason for this is quite simple: he admires her as a director. This stems from being brought up to worship her, “My mom loved to talk to her 10 children about two things: God and Barbra Streisand.” Rodriguez and Streisand have formed a friendship, which is how he came to interview her on Saturday. Probably the best takeaway from the interview was when Rodriguez and Streisand were discussing fear. Not only was Barbra’s answer inspiring, but she was able to take a swipe at #45 without mentioning his name:

Streisand: “Fear is an engine to create.”
Rodriguez: “That’s great – you turn fear into an engine, not a wall.”
Streisand: “Don’t mention a wall to me.”


Photo credit: Getty Images, WENN and Fame/Flynet Photos

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22 Responses to “Barbra Streisand: people in the industry ‘don’t want to see a woman director’”

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  1. adastraperaspera says:

    I loved Yentl and am still upset that she wasn’t nominated for a directing Oscar! Watch it if you like musical theater. When it came out, I was a budding feminist. To see a star-studded movie with a woman defying tradition was really important to me. I would say there were several films around that time that featured strong female characters and their stories (Norma Rae, Silkwood, The Color Purple, etc.). I miss movies like these!

  2. Oh Barbara. Keep saying all the things, I’m here for this.

  3. boredblond says:

    But she has a couple dozen producer/exec producer credits, and the only female director she hired was ..her. Yentl did show some skill, but Prince of Tides was very filmed-play stagey.

    • lisa says:

      ita, prince of tides was quite awful imo

      • Bella bella says:

        Except that it was nominated for all the major awards except Best Director. I agree it was a piece of schlock. But someone directed Nick Nolte to that Best Actor nomination… and at the time it seemed ridiculous for a film to be nominated for so many awards and not Best Director.

  4. Maya says:

    Completely agree with on less female directors and women being women’s worst enemies.

    I have always said that how can we expect men to respect when women themselves don’t respect other women.

    • Maybe our expectations of men should be based on equality and basic human decency. Stop making women the yardstick by which they qualify their own treatment from men.

      • Brittney B says:

        Exactly. And “women themselves don’t respect other women” BECAUSE of our institutionalized patriarchy. It’s not women keeping other women down; when you look at the bigger picture, it’s still men and masculine ideals. We are all products of our society, and that society still holds women to harsher standards.

    • Ann says:

      However, Hollywood it run mostly by men and most of its decision makers are male. She is absolutely right on all accounts.

  5. bap says:

    Barbara is speaking truth. Her and Angelina Jolie’s directorial works were under minded and shaded.

    • Brittney B says:

      I thought of Angelina throughout this interview. Wouldn’t say she deserved an Oscar nomination (though worse directors have gotten them)… but it’s definitely clear that she’s judged in a way her male peers aren’t. How many male actors have tried directing? Countless, and they’re not labeled “failures” when their small side projects have modest performances. If Brad or George had directed more than one in-depth movie about a foreign war and genocide, made entirely in that language with people from that country, they would be lauded for their ambition and “wokeness” and intelligence. She’s held to absolutely impossible standards, no matter what she does.

  6. Lightpurple says:

    Given that the Oscar nominations for Best Director are chosen only by people who are in the directors category, not the AMPAS membership as a whole, and, if like the other categories, the majority of those voters were themselves previous nominees, how many women voters were there in the Director category in 1983 when Yentl was released? Or 1991 for Prince of Tides? I get her point about women getting in the way of other women but not sure she’s accurate on the lack of a director Oscar nomination in 1983 coming down to other women not supporting her. The directors category is pretty much the ultimate white boys club, even now. I can’t see how it would have been more inclusive in 1983.

  7. michelle says:

    I thought it was jennifer Aniston. They look eerily similar. The proof is Ava de Verney was ignored with Selma. Instead five white guys were nominated. Even though selma was so critically acclaimed, more so than said white guys films.

  8. robyn says:

    I think she’s far more sensitive than people realize. Republicans in particular have been after Barbra for decades, trying to diminish her importance as an artist. What men are admired for, women bosses and/or directors are not in most industries … not just in the arts but in politics as well. Young graduating women might think sexism is over but they’ll find out differently once they head into the work force and try to rise.

  9. S says:

    I think it’s undeniably true that sexism, going hand-in-hand with ageism, in Hollywood, both in how they deal with women in front of and behind the camera is a real, pervasive and ongoing issue that was far worse in the 1980s and ’90s.

    I think it is ALSO true that Barbara Streisand is both absurdly talented AND extremely egocentric, self-absorbed and beyond difficult to work with. So, while sexism is definitely not helping her cause, she herself is certainly to blame for some of her cited slights, not only due to a dearth of like-ablity — awards are often little more than a popularity contest — but also via highly overestimating her own value and worth. While I love The Way We Were and think Prince of Tides was meh melodrama (not bad, but not great); Yentl was an over-stylized, self-indulgent vanity project. No matter what you think of the plot and pacing, it’s hard to deny that no director has ever been more obsessed with their lead actor, and how they looked onscreen, than Barbara was with herself in Yentl, and I think it came through in every single frame of that far too-long film.

    • anniefannie says:

      I think you’re spot on, Babs leaves no room for reflection on how she’s perceived and how this impacts voters!
      I remember the critics ( men and women ) werent overly impressed w/Yentle but most memorable ( sorry I can’t remember the author ) ” A love letter from Barbara Striesand to
      Barbara Streisand !”

    • Vagenius says:

      Jesus Christ, how many men can also be called “difficult” “self absorbed” etc. and STILL get Oscars and huge opportunities to Direct? No, she isn’t “overestimating her own value and worth” especially not when her films garnered countless other nominations, but is conspicuously missing in the Directing category. Are you even hearing yourself?

      This is sexist bullshit 101 and only proves her point.

      Everyone in the industry has acknowledged that sexism played a huge role in her being snubbed. It’s not exactly a secret.

      • S says:

        I do think sexism is an issue in Hollywood, and America in general. I also, as I said before, think it can be both. I don’t think Yentl was a very good movie. I thought it was massively over-rewarded to begin with. Sure, it wouldn’t be the first time a vanity project received awards, but that doesn’t make it more deserving for being one. I don’t think it’s held up, at all, despite Streisand’s undeniable singing talent. <<<—- And, nominations aside, the only awards it actually won were all for the music.

        I don't think Streisand is an amazing director, unlike Ava DuVernay. I also don't think she's done much to further the careers of other women. She's famously egocentric, to a degree, sure, a FEW male directors may match and better get away … BUT I'm not cheerleading them either. There also aren't that many difficult male directors who make themselves the star of the movie they're directing, and then focus relentlessly on their own presentation, mostly revolving around their looks.

        The name Streisand is basically synonymous with ego. She's wealthy beyond belief and been able to call her own shots for a LONG time. She's not necessarily wrong, but my sexism sympathies very much lie elsewhere.

  10. Dorothy#1 says:

    OMG Yentl is amazing! And Mandy Pitinkin is phenomenal in it. It still holds up really well today.

  11. PennyLane says:

    She’s right.

    Good for her for speaking the uncomfortable truth.

  12. bella says:

    I love Yentyl, and I remember being upset that she wasn’t nominated. There are loads of male directors who do vanity projects, but because she is a women of her extraordinary talent and ego to match, she was left out of the game.