As Oscar season heats up and the world awaits news of the Sundance Film Festival lineup, Variety announces its 10 Directors to Watch for 2019, featuring a mix of recent festival breakouts and movies yet to premiere in the coming year, all chosen on the strength of films screened for Variety’s editors (sometimes as works in progress).
While blockbuster Venice-Toronto sensation “A Star Is Born” demonstrated the birth of a major new director in Bradley Cooper, many of the other talents on this year’s list are less well-known, but no less exciting. From Cannes, Un Certain Regard winner Ali Abbasi is representing Sweden with his film “Border” in this year’s Oscar foreign language race. Film critic and festival programmer Kent Jones won the Tribeca competition with feature debut “Diane,” while Mexican directors Alejandra Márquez Abella (“The Good Girls”) and Alonso Ruizpalacios (“Museo”) were standouts of the competition sections at the Toronto and Berlin film festivals, respectively.
In a reflection of all the incredible emerging female talent on the horizon, Variety’s lineup is predominately female, featuring no fewer than seven women. Among them are directing duo Bert & Bertie (technically speaking, “the Berts” make for a total of 11 filmmakers to watch). Their playful Amazon-produced debut “Troupe Zero” stars Viola Davis and Allison Janney.
Rounding out the list, photographer Tayarisha Poe (“Selah and the Spades”) and Pippa Bianco — whose “Share” she expanded from an award-winning 2016 short of the same name — display fresh voices sure to stand out on the festival circuit in 2019. Actress Olivia Wilde impressed with her handling of ribald high-school comedy “Booksmart” — which plays like a female “Superbad” — while Lulu Wang has a potential crossover hit on her hands in family-focused “The Farewell,” starring “Crazy Rich Asians” scene-stealer Awkwafina.
The 10 Directors to Watch are:
- Ali Abbasi (“Border”)
- Bert & Bertie (“Troupe Zero”)
- Pippa Bianco (“Share”)
- Alejandra Márquez Abella (“The Good Girls”)
- Bradley Cooper (“A Star Is Born”)
- Kent Jones (“Diane”)
- Tayarisha Poe (“Selah and the Spades”)
- Alonso Ruizpalacios (“Museo”)
- Lulu Wang (“The Farewell”)
- Olivia Wilde (“Booksmart”)
Variety’s 10 to Watch series spotlights emerging writers, actors, producers, directors, comics and cinematographers. Each of these lists is curated by a team of Variety editors, critics, and reporters. Other filmmakers chosen for this honor in the past include Alfonso Cuarón and fellow 2018 Oscar contenders Wes Anderson, Peter Hedges, Nadine Labaki, Steve McQueen and Pawel Pawlikowski.
The directors selected for this year’s list will be honored in person at the Palm Springs Intl. Film Festival, where Variety will host a brunch in their honor on Friday, Jan. 4. Profiles of the filmmakers will run in the Jan. 1 print edition. 2019 will be the ninth year that the list has been presented in Palm Springs.
“We’re so excited to continue working with Variety on this program,” said PSIFF artistic director Michael Lerman. “Along with our New Voices New Visions competition, it helps to confirm our commitment to supporting emerging voices in the festival.”