Why Barbra Streisand Said She Didn’t Get an Oscar Nod for Directing

Barbra Streisand is most known for being a singer and an actor. In addition, she’s also directed a few movies. Here’s why she feels she wasn’t nominated for Best Director for her work on her directorial debut, Yentl.

Barbra Streisand wearing eyeliner
Barbra Streisand | Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Barbra Streisand on why people were opposed to her directing a movie

Yentl is the story of a woman of the same name who is constrained by the standards of 1900s Polish society. She decides to enter a Yeshiva school – a Jewish school — which is only for men. To do so, she pretends to be male. The film touches on gender roles in such a way that feels ahead of its time for a 1980s movie. Although Yentl is the sort of historical fiction movie that often performs well at the Oscars, Streisand did not garner a nomination for Best Director. According to Variety, Streisand said sexism prevented her from receiving those nominations.

“There were a lot of older people,” Streisand told director Robert Rodriguez. “They don’t want to see a woman director. I don’t know how many women wanted to see a woman director.”

The Yentl trailer

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Rodriguez said Streisand paved the way for future female directors like Kathryn Bigelow, the director of The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. Streisand felt differently.

“Not enough women are directing now,” Streisand said. “I love when I see a woman’s name on the film, and then I want to see it be good.” Streisand directed two films after Yentl: The Prince of Tides and The Mirror Has Two Faces. Neither film garnered Oscar nominations for directing. In addition to taking issue with the Academy’s reaction to Yentl, Streisand critiqued how female authors discussed the film.

Barbra Streisand closing her eyes
Barbra Streisand | Photoshot/Getty Images

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

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How the public and a major director responded to ‘Yentl’

Perhaps Yentl didn’t receive the accolades Streisand desired However, the film was still a success. According to Box Office Mojo, Yentl earned over $40 million at the box office. This made Yentl the 36th most financially successful film of 1984. The film didn’t come close to earning as much as some of the blockbusters of 1984, such as Ghostbusters ($220 million), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom ($179 million), or Gremlins ($184 million). However, it was still a modest hit. In addition, a noted filmmaker had some incredible praise for the film.

According to the book The Barbra Streisand Scrapbook, Steven Spielberg was a huge fan of Yentl. At the film’s premiere, he said it was the best directorial debut film since Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane. This is a huge compliment since Citizen Kane is widely considered one of the greatest films ever. In addition, Spielberg told Streisand he wouldn’t change a thing about the movie. Maybe Streisand’s direction didn’t impress the Academy, but it impressed one of most popular filmmakers ever.