By Kailey Brennan
As the fight for gender equality and representation continues in the film industry, let’s bring the work of female directors to the top of your queue this weekend. Here are five fierce, creative, and talented directors creating strong women in movies and TV that you don’t want to miss.
Ava DuVernay’s work focuses on representations of family, black womanhood, and good over evil. DuVernay crafts stories that fight for justice, stir strong emotions in her viewers, and win notable awards.
DuVernay won the directing award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival for her second feature film Middle of Nowhere, becoming the first black woman recipient. For her work on Selma, DuVernay became the first black woman to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Director, and to have her film nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. Her latest project, the Netflix series When They See Us, is based on the 1989 Central Park Five case, exploring the lives and families of the five black boys who were wrongly prosecuted for the rape and assault of a white woman.
Sara Colangelo made her film debut at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014, with her movie Little Accidents, which later appeared at the Seattle International Film Festival and won the Grand Jury Prize for Narrative Short. The New York–based writer and director seeks to move the film industry away from portraying women in vanilla ways, instead giving them more depth and grit.
“I’m sick of women having to be so likable all the time. We’re nuanced creatures, like men. Men get to be antiheroes in cinema, and we should too,” Colangelo said in an interview with Slash Films. “I think it makes for wonderful cinema and it makes for something that I think women relate to, too.”
Check out her latest boundary-pushing film, The Kindergarten Teacher, a complicated and uncomfortable story of a five-year-old boy who shows an unreal gift for poetry, and his teacher, Lisa (the amazing Maggie Gyllenhaal), who struggles in her adult-education class to be a poet—if only she had intellectual stimulation in her home life.
Reed Morano, known for her work on feature films such as Frozen River, Kill Your Darlings, and The Skeleton Twins, became the youngest member of the American Society of Cinematographers in 2013. Morano was also part of the extremely popular Hulu TV series, The Handmaid's Tale, where she directed the first three episodes. Her work on the show landed her multiple awards and she became the first woman to win an Emmy and Directors Guild Award for directing a drama series. Her directing style is specific as she is known for handheld shooting. “I chose to shoot handheld most of the time, because on that film and script, handheld was the best way to tell the story, because I felt like you needed to feel as intimate and as close to the characters as possible—to sort of envelop the audience in their emotion,” Morano told Beast Grip about her work on Meadowland. Check out her film, The Skeleton Twins, starring Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, about estranged siblings unacceptably reuniting after a family tragedy that forces them to confront their truths and accept each other.
While she’s been starring in indie movies for years, Great Gerwig made her directorial debut in 2017 with the film Ladybird, making her a female director to watch. Ladybird earned a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy before garnering five Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. The coming-of-age story centered around a female protagonist in her senior year of high school showcases the love and complicated relationship between a mother and daughter. Gerwig purposefully wanted to focus the film away from romance and focus on female relationships instead. At the Women in Entertainment Summit in 2017, she noted, “I want to produce women’s films, because I think women want to see films made by people who know what they’re talking about, what the experience is.” Gerwig is set to direct the latest adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's beloved novel, Little Women, scheduled to hit theaters on Christmas 2019.
Scottish writer-director Lynne Ramsey is best known for her impressionistic films. Her most popular film is We Need to Talk About Kevin, which she wrote, produced, and directed. Staring Tilda Swinton and Ezra Miller, the film earned critical acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival in addition to winning a BAFTA for Best Director. Her latest movie, You Were Never Really Here, starring Joaquin Phoenix, won great critical acclaim at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. Check out her 2002 film, Morvern Callar, about a young girl who publishes her dead boyfriend’s novel under her own name and uses the money to run away to Spain.