American champions women film directors with $50K Bonnie Award

When it comes to championing women directors and diversity during Hollywood awards season, nobody beats the Film Independent Spirit Awards.

Unlike the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which has only nominated four women directors for Oscars in 89 years – Lina Wertmüller for Seven Beauties, Jane Campion for The Piano, Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation, and Kathryn Bigelow, who didn’t just get nominated, but became the only female director in Hollywood history to actually win an Oscar for Best Director in 2010 for The Hurt Locker – the Spirit Awards regularly celebrate a truly diverse slate of women filmmakers from around the globe.

In fact, this year alone, nine women directors are up for Spirit Awards. Veteran indie writer/directors Andrea Arnold (American Honey) and Kelly Reichardt (Certain Women) are nominated in the Best Director category. Newcomer Anna Rose Holmer’s surrealist dance team drama The Fits earned her a Best First Feature nomination. Korean-born writer/director So Yong Kim and trans multi-hyphenate T.W. Pittman are up for John Cassavetes Awards for best feature produced for under $500K for their films Lovesong and Nakom, respectively, and the Best Foreign Film and Best Documentary categories feature women writer/directors from Greece, Germany, the US and Iran.

Now, thanks to a unique collaboration with American Airlines – the official airline and premiere sponsor of the Film Independent Spirit Awards – and Film Independent, next year’s Spirit Awards will be even more diverse than ever. Recognizing the longstanding importance of women in independent film, American will announce a new $50,000 award at today’s Spirit Awards, entitled the Bonnie Award, to be given annually to up-and-coming women directors of rare vision.

Named for pioneering American pilot Bonnie Tiburzi Caputo, who was the first woman to fly for a major US airline and flew for American for 26 years before retiring, the first Bonnie Award will be presented at next year’s Spirit Awards in 2018. The award’s namesake, who began her career as a flight engineer at American in 1973, could not be prouder to be a part of such a very cool undertaking.

“I was surrounded by the aviation culture my entire life and I knew becoming a pilot was what I wanted,” says Tiburzi. “I had to work harder, longer and be better just to be equal, but American Airlines didn’t shy away from hiring a woman. To be recognized and bring back this part of my life is exhilarating.”

“We’re inspired by Bonnie’s story and perseverance, and we are honored that this award for female directors will carry her name,” adds Fernand Fernandez, VP of global marketing for American. “We are committed to building a diverse workforce and providing opportunities for people from all walks of life.”

An active supporter of local diversity initiatives and events throughout the Los Angeles area – including the Los Angeles LGBT Center, the LA Mission and the Southern California Special Olympics – American’s Bonnie Award is just the latest partnership between the carrier and Hollywood’s entertainment industry and further proof of the airline’s commitment to supporting the next generation of daring, forward-thinking, independent filmmakers. Particularly women.

“At Film Independent we have a deep and longstanding commitment to supporting female directors and increasing diversity in filmmaking,” says Film Independent president Josh Welsh, “and we’re honored to deepen our partnership with American Airlines on this new venture, the Bonnie Award.”

Hosted by comedian Nick Kroll (Loving, The League) and SNL’s John Mulvaney, the 2017 Film Independent Spirit Awards will air live today, 25 February, on IFC at 2p/5e.

Submissions and nominations for American and Film Independent’s first Bonnie Award open in June with nominees set to be announced in the heart of awards season this coming November. Visit to learn more.

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Featured image credited to American Airlines