Variety recognized “No Time to Die” maestro Cary Joji Fukunaga’s potential on the strength of his debut, “Sin Nombre.” Wes Anderson caught our eye with “Bottle Rocket.” And “Red Rocket” director Sean Baker made the cut the year “Tangerine” took Sundance by storm. Other distinguished alumni of Variety’s annual 10 Directors to Watch program include “The Green Knight” helmer David Lowery, Palme d’Or winner Julia Ducournau (“Titane”) and “Bergman Island” auteur Mia Hansen-Løve.
And now, on the strength of that track record, Variety announces 10 more helmers with sterling futures ahead: the class of 2022, to be profiled in full with the first print edition of the new year.
It’s a decidedly forward-looking — and female-driven — group of visionaries this time around, spanning genres, languages and a wide variety of backgrounds.
Just two of the 10 directors are men. Only four of the films have already premiered to the world at large; the remaining six are set to bow at high-profile festivals in 2022. (The selection process relies on Variety editors screening dozens of new and upcoming features, and curating a mix of the most promising emerging talents from among those first and second films.)
The most recognizable of the bunch is Maggie Gyllenhaal, whose directorial debut, “The Lost Daughter,” heralded the arrival of an exciting new voice when it premiered at the Venice Film Festival. Bowing alongside her, Audrey Diwan won the Golden Lion there for 1960s-set French abortion drama “Happening.” Another standout from the recent festival circuit, documentary veteran Tatiana Huezo’s powerful “Prayers for the Stolen,” about girls growing up in the shadow of an opium cartel, is representing Mexico in the Oscar international feature competition.
Gyllenhaal isn’t the only actor-turned-director on the list this year. Both Megan Park and Cooper Raiff broke out of the SXSW pack with their first features, school-shooting survivor story “The Fallout” and indie college comedy “Shithouse,” respectively. Raiff wrote, directed, produced and stars in “Cha Cha Real Smooth,” an age-gap love story in which his character falls for young mother Dakota Johnson. New Line will release “The Fallout” in early 2022.
A protégé of Quentin Tarantino’s, screenwriter Krystin Ver Linden directs her own Black List-selected script with “Alice,” a no-nonsense empowerment saga in which Keke Palmer channels ’70s blaxploitation icon Pam Grier. And writer-directors Mariama Diallo (“Master”) and Nikyatu Jusu (“Nanny”) explore timely race and cultural tensions in a pair of horror offerings that herald the arrival of two incredibly original and engaged storytellers.
Another sui generis auteur, Australia-educated Goran Stolevski, channels folklore from his native Macedonia in his own supernatural feature debut, “You Won’t Be Alone,” which explores gender and identity issues in ways that audiences have never seen before. And Aitch Alberto — the first trans director ever to make the list — is also guaranteed to surprise, with her sensitive and surreal adaptation of the beloved queer YA romance “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.”
The 10 Directors to Watch are:
- Aitch Alberto (“Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe”)
- Mariama Diallo (“Master”)
- Audrey Diwan (“Happening”)
- Maggie Gyllenhaal (“The Lost Daughter”)
- Tatiana Huezo (“Prayers for the Stolen”)
- Nikyatu Jusu (“Nanny”)
- Megan Park (“The Fallout”)
- Cooper Raiff (“Cha Cha Real Smooth”)
- Goran Stolevski (“You Won’t Be Alone”)
- Krystin Ver Linden (“Alice”)
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.
The directors selected for this year’s list will be honored in person at a brunch event on Jan. 7 at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, which resumes in-person screenings, panels and parties in early January, following a COVID-impacted virtual edition in 2020.
“We’re very excited to continue our partnership with Variety to co-host the ’10 Directors to Watch’ brunch at the Festival,” said PSIFF artistic director Lili Rodriguez. “This year’s directors are an exceptionally gifted group of emerging talents, and we congratulate all of them for being selected on this distinguished list.”