10 Female Directors We ♥ #WomenInFilm
If you love cinema but struggle to name more than five female directors, it's time to educate yourself. Men aren't the only true pioneers of cinema. Around the world, women are making films that are bold and brilliant, simultaneously challenging the archetypal gender roles that define modern cinema and fighting to change a cultural landscape that is still largely governed by men.
Even without the same opportunities or exposure, it's a formative time for women. Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier recently helmed the AMC smash series The Night Manager, Mira Nair has been hired by powerhouse studio Disney to direct the female-fronted biopic Queen of Katwe and British director Andrea Arnold won the Jury Prize at Cannes for her new film, American Honey.
If you want to know about more female directors, here are 10 names bubbling across the radar and making films to rival their male peers.
1. Deniz Gamze Ergüven | Feature films: Mustang (2015)
With her Oscar-nominated debut feature, Mustang (read about it here), Deniz Gamze Ergüven became a director for all girls to look up to. Inspired by her own childhood in Turkey, Mustang is two films in one: a razor-sharp study on burgeoning identity in a closeted community, and a spirited coming-of-age drama celebrating sisterhood. The media has crowned Ergüven the "Turkish Sofia Coppola", and while Mustang evokes a similar mood and melancholy as The Virgin Suicides, her deft touch proves she is more than pastiche.
2. Houda Benjamin | Feature films: Divines (2016)
This time last year, Franco-Moroccan filmmaker Houda Benyamina was largely unknown. Since then her debut feature, Divines, premiered at Cannes, where it won rapturous applause and the Golden Camera Award. Unlike traditionally trained directors, Benyamina is self-taught and this drive is reflected in her young heroines. Using inner city strife as a backdrop, Divines follows a young drug dealer and her best friend as they try to navigate the pitfalls of adolescence and dream of escaping the poverty that surrounds them.
3. Ana Lily Amirpour | Feature films: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
When A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, audiences were struck dumb. An art-house black and white horror with the logic of a fever dream, the film combines Ana Lily Amirpour's Iranian heritage and her home in the back lots of Hollywood. Featuring lonesome vampires, small-town drug dealers, Farsi dialogue and Iranian rock music, Amirpour takes her favourite elements of American and Iranian counterculture and creates an entirely new mode of storytelling.
4. Rama Thiaw | Feature films: Boul Fallé, la Voie de la lutte (2009), The Revolution Won't Be Televised (2016)
The best documentaries are beasts to create: lovingly crafted and true to fact but with the pacings of fiction and an aim to inspire change. Rama Thiaw is only in her 30s but already seems like a master of the genre. After making a series of short films on the poor living conditions in French commune Aubervilliers, Thiaw has made two documentaries that examine the apex between Senegalese culture and politics. Her fierce new film, The Revolution Won't Be Televised, drops audiences into a country enveloped in social uproar, and won the Prize of Critics from FIPRESCI at this year's 2016 Berlinale.
5. Rachel Tunnard | Feature films: Adult Life Skills (2016)
She may be relatively new to making feature films but writer-director Rachel Tunnard has already won the esteemed Nora Ephron Prize for Adult Life Skills. Based on her BAFTA-nominated short, Emotional Fusebox, Tunnard's debut feature is a true indie gem, about a young woman who lives in her mother's shed and makes films about talking fingers. One of the quirkiest talents in the British film industry, Tunnard is brilliant at balancing contrasting moods, and her films oscillate between delightfully silly and sorely poignant.
6. Maren Ade | Feature films: The Forest for the Trees (2005), Everyone Else (2009), Toni Erdmann (2016)
Between teaching budding screenwriters in Berlin and running her own production company, Maren Ade finds time to make films about the plights of women. Since winning the Sundance Jury Prize in 2005 for The Forest for the Trees, Ade has been devoted to making films where female characters aren't merely sidekicks for men. Her new comedy-drama, Toni Erdmann, is the first German film to debut at Cannes in 10 years, revealing Ade's status as one of her generation's most titillating and daring filmmakers.
7. Leyla Bouzid | Feature films: As I Open My Eyes (2016)
Stories about women in rock music are often a source of inspiration for female directors - take Floria Sigismondi's 2010 biopic, The Runaways. In Leyla Bouzid's gorgeous debut, As I Open My Eyes, the wide-scale conflict of Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution is contrasted with the inner war of being a young woman. Bouzid's protagonist is a student with a bright academic future awaiting her. That is, until she rebels against her family's expectations to pursue her dreams in a band. Through her unruly and idealistic heroine, Bouzid encourages young women to grab life while quietly challenging a society where personal freedom is oppressed and notions of gender tightly corralled.
8. Kelly Reichardt | Feature films: River of Grass (1994), Old Joy (2006), Wendy and Lucy (2008), Meek's Cutoff (2010), Night Moves (2013), Certain Women (2016)
Although she's been writing and directing for more than 20 years, Kelly Reichardt is still a mystery to mainstream audiences. This is a shame, as her most recent film, Certain Women, brings together a wildly talented group of actresses, including Kristen Stewart, Laura Dern and frequent collaborator Michelle Williams. A natural behind the camera, Reichardt has shown she can tackle multiple genres without betraying her signature style; just compare moody thriller Night Moves to avant-garde western Meek's Cutoff.
9. Amber Fares | Feature films: Speed Sisters (2016)
One of the most exciting documentaries to be released this year is Amber Fares' debut feature, Speed Sisters. Powerful and punk-rock, Speed Sisters borrows its name from the first all-woman race car driving team to emerge in the Arab world. It's amazing to watch five women tackle a sport not only overwhelmingly male but in a country where women are still treated as second-class citizens. It can also leave viewers feeling bruised. While exploring what drives the team, Fares looks at wider issues, such as gender in Palestine and if being a woman in a conservative society means the death of individuality.
10. Jennifer Kent | Feature films: The Babadook (2014)
A lot of modern horror feels hackneyed, weighed down by excessive gore, disposable characters and cheap jump-scares. In the vein of the gutsiest horror film heroine, Jennifer Kent ditches such conventions and uses the genre to challenge societal perceptions of motherhood. She also creates one of the most striking horror films of the last 20 years. Terrifying and sublimely shot, The Babadook becomes a Freudian descent into the mind of a damaged widow and the relationship with troubled her son. Critics and audiences fell in love, and with a single film, Kent has altered the formula of horror cinema.