“The time has come.”
Barbra Streisand spoke those four words on March 7, 2010, just before anointing Kathryn Bigelow as the first -- and still the only -- woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director. Bigelow took home two golden statues that night for The Hurt Locker, which was also memorably awarded the Oscar for Best Picture over box-office titan Avatar. In the seven years since that historic moment, zero women have been nominated for the award, with two of the closest contenders being Bigelow herself (for 2012’s Best Picture nominee Zero Dark Thirty) and Ava DuVernay (for 2014’s Selma).
One could say that “the time has come” again for Bigelow, but it’s not golden statues she’s looking for. With Detroit, in theaters on Aug. 4, Bigelow hopes the time has come for audiences to learn about a previously untold tragedy that occurred at the Algiers Motel during the 1967 riots in Detroit.
“It really began with the emotional connection to mainly these victims and how to humanize that experience. And I think [in] humanizing it, there’s a potential to create empathy,” Bigelow says. “And in creating empathy, there’s potential for a conversation to develop and that would be my greatest aspiration.”
Bigelow explained that her producing partner and Academy Award-winning screenwriter Mark Boal brought her the story of the tragedy around the time of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. “So it seemed to feel very contemporaneous, even though it was 50 years ago,” she says. The two immediately decided to take on the challenge.
The true story centers on Detroit security guard Melvin Dismukes (John Boyega) as he ends up in the middle of a violent confrontation between a group of white police officers (led, in a vicious turn, by Will Poulter) and a number of young black men (Anthony Mackie, Algee Smith and Jacob Latimore) and two white women at the motel.
Head to ETonline.com for Kathryn Bigelow's advice for female directors and more keys to her groundbreaking success.