Next time a high-profile fest programmer or Hollywood exec tells you there aren’t enough great films from distaff directors, call their bluff. In seeking fresh voices for our 22nd annual “10 Directors to Watch” lineup, Variety had no trouble finding talented women, again. In previous years, the series — which recognizes directors of all kinds on the cusp of breakthrough — has spotlighted the likes of Marielle Heller (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”) and Nadine Labacki (“Capernaum”).
Jones: Alystyre Julian/ifc films; Cooper: Warner Bros.
Iran-born, Denmark-based director Ali Abbasi was the toast of Cannes this year with his second feature, the Swedish-Danish “Border,” which won the top prize in Un Certain Regard. Fantastic in every sense of the word, the film, distributed in the U.S. by Neon, was selected to represent Sweden in the foreign-language Oscar race and has been short-listed in the makeup category. But the U.S. travel ban has made it difficult to promote the film, given that Abbasi still has an Iranian passport.
Raised in Mexico City by historian parents, writer-director Márquez Abella studied filmmaking at the Centre d’Estudis Cinematographics de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain. The emerging Mexican auteur debuted her first feature, “Semana Santa,” at the Toronto film festival in 2015. In September, she was back at TIFF with “The Good Girls,” which premiered in the prestigious Platform competition.
Back in 2005, Bert met Bertie. Bert was producing a series of short films to accompany Sony’s “The Getaway” video game series while Bertie served as the game’s writer. The two struck up an immediate kinship and found that together they were a “creative melting pot of ideas.”
How many feature debutantes can boast slots in two of the world’s top film festivals with the same film? New York-born writer-director Bianco’s “Share” will world premiere in Sundance’s U.S. dramatic competition en route to domestic release through A24.
Cooper may have achieved movie star status before getting the chance to direct — “luckily, in the end,” he says — but that gave the actor time to find his voice before making “A Star Is Born” his debut. As early as 2000, when Cooper shot the “Alias” pilot, he started turning early acting jobs into a kind of amateur film school.
A respected aesthete best known as head of the New York Film Festival, Jones now finds himself identifying as a different sort of director — the kind who operates behind the camera, as opposed to exercising his power before a projector. “As a critic, I became more and more interested in the nuts and bolts of filmmaking,” says Jones.
A few years from now, there will no doubt be an official name for the explosion of talented Mexican directors breaking through on the international festival circuit — filmmakers a generation younger than such Nuevo Cine Mexicano pioneers as Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuaron, but every bit as promising in the originality of their vision.
Born in China, Wang moved to Miami when she was 6 — a dramatic shift not only in terms of geography, but culturally as well. This “divide,” says Wang, is a theme that plays out on multiple levels in the director’s Sundance-bound sophomore feature, “The Farewell,” a dry, comedic drama in which a Chinese family decides to not inform its elderly matriarch that she has Stage V cancer.
In the 15 years Wilde has spent in front of cameras, she’s been studying how the other half lives. She’s been doing that on her own time, too, shadowing directors and cinematographers on sets, and trying her hand at directing a short film and two music videos. But it wasn’t until she ran across the screenplay for “Booksmart” that she knew she’d found the moment to tackle her first feature.