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10 From The 10s: New Female Filmmakers

Lea Seydoux and Tahar Rahim in Rebecca Zlotowski's Grand Central

It's no easy task, diagnosing an entire period of history as it's coming to a close, particularly not when your subject is as broad as that of the entirety of world cinema! Much as we all now have a pretty good, and generally consistent, impression of what constituted cinema in, say, the 1970s, were we all as certain in 1979, or even 1980? Thus, to look back on the 2010s and make any kind of decisive declaration as to what it represents within the grand scheme of moviemaking is not an exercise I have the time, the energy or the intelligence (alas) to embark upon, but rather than diagnose anything about this decade, I'd quite like to celebrate it. And there's a few ways of doing that that are neither as reductive nor as premature as making such a sweeping statement.

As moviemaking has developed over the past decade, better technology and increasing awareness have helped drive a movement toward ever more diversity in international cinema. National industries have flourished, sources of funding and support have coalesced around lesser-heard voices, and the growing influence of political activism on the artistic world has focused attention on gender equality in this business. I'd like to celebrate 10 of the brightest new female directors of the last 10 years in the first of a new SOS series: 10 From The 10s!

Mati Diop

Once best known as the actor daughter of Wasis Diop, 37-year-old Mati is now better known as one of the most exciting young filmmakers around. Even more exciting is the speed with which she's breaking new ground for female filmmakers: the first black female director to compete for the Palme d'Or at Cannes, and also one of Africa's fastest-rising stars. Indeed, the Senegalese director's first narrative feature film, Atlantics, picked up Cannes' Grand Prix back in May, six years after her feature documentary debut, A Thousand Suns, announced her as one to watch on the global cinema scene. With Netflix having picked up Atlantics for North American distribution and a release set for a prime awards season slot in November, we're all eagerly anticipating what Diop does next.

Aisling Franciosi in Jennifer Kent's The Nightingale

Jennifer Kent

Who could have expected a low-budget Australian horror film from a debut director premiering at Sundance would go on to be one of 2014's most talked-about and most enduring successes? With The Babadook, Jennifer Kent announced herself as a horror auteur for the ages, and even if her career since then has veered sharply away from the genre, she'll go down in history nonetheless as the helmer of one of horror cinema's most memorable entries. Kent put her remarkable vision to a different, even more difficult purpose with last year's The Nightingale, earning herself a Jury Prize from the Venice Film Festival in the process. It's a ferocious, punishing, intentionally unyielding drama that only confirms her ability and makes Kent one of the decade's most accomplished new artists. The next decade promises only yet more excellence from the Aussie, though if any of her future projects launch a gay icon of the Babadook's status, I'll be gooped!

Elle Fanning in Melanie Laurent's Galveston

Melanie Laurent

Rising acting star Melanie Laurent could have become one of France's most accomplished female actors following her breakout, award-winning turn in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds at the end of the last decade - in fairness, she hasn't ceased starring in movies since then, having worked with many acclaimed directors such as Denis Villeneuve, Claudia Llosa and Tran Anh Hung herself. But it's in directing that Laurent has excelled most, with five titles under her belt between 2011 and 2018 alone, and each of them bringing her deserved praise. 2014's beautiful romantic drama Breathe might be her best work yet, though she's proven herself a very fine master of mood and of actors across each individual project. This year, Laurent was rewarded with an invitiation to join The Academy's directors branch.

Narimane Mari

This French-Algerian experimental filmmaker is one of the decade's most distinctive new voices, and one of its least well-known. 2013's bold debut, Bloody Beans, marked her out as an arthouse talent with a huge amount of promise, and already one excellent feature to prove it. 2017's Le Fort des Fous saw this already-radical artist experiment further with form and technique, and if the end result wasn't as consistently impressive, it nevertheless confirmed that promise and added new strings to Mari's bow. There remains depressingly little appetite for her style of filmmaking among general cinephile audiences, but here's hoping Mari can continue to push artistic boundaries through the next decade as she did in this one.

Vivian Qu

Producer-turned-director Qu is among the most capable filmmakers working today in China, having already mastered a style of genre realism that marks her out from her contemporaries in a rewarding, intriguing way. Her two first features, 2013's Trap Street and 2017's Angels Wear White, both premiered at the Venice Film Festival (Angels Wear White in competition) to excellent responses, and her presence as the only female director in competition in 2017 helped draw audiences' attention to her talent. Qu's political, humanistic ear meshes seamlessly with her stylistic eye, and makes her a filmmaker to watch in the coming years.

Katell Quillevere

Too few pictures succeed in pursuing humanistic, emotion-fuelled ends with grace and flair, and without succumbing to easy sentimentality. This, however, is Katell Quillevere's forte: each of her three features this decade - 2010's debut Love Like Poison, 2013's Suzanne, and 2016's Heal the Living - have demonstrated her exceptional skill for telling heartfelt stories about real-feeling people without resorting to crass manipulation. By 2016, she was even wilfully upping the ante on herself, with the masterful Heal the Living attempting to showcase this skill across several storylines, with the sort of thing that reads like insufferable melodrama on paper rather soaring off the screen in wondrous, yet wondrously subtle emotive streaks. Quillevere has also contributed screenplays for other directors this decade, though none have achieved what she has when she's taken full command.

Shahrbanoo Sadat

Afghanistan's premier female filmmaker was only 20 when she was selected for the Cinefondation Residence at Cannes in 2010, the youngest ever to date. It was through this programme that her debut feature, 2016's Wolf and Sheep, was developed; it has since become the first part of a planned pentalogy for the ambitious young auteur, who's still not even 30 yet has three titles under her belt already. Sadat's experimental edge in otherwise grounded tales of real life in her troubled home country makes her an endlessly fascinating filmmaker, and I look forward to seeing part two of that pentalogy, this year's The Orphanage, and hopefully the remaining three parts in the years to come.

Diane Kruger, Paul Hamy and Matthias Schoenaerts in Alice Winocour's Disorder

Alice Winocour

Talk about a successful first few years! Parisian Alice Winocour has only three movies to her name as director to date, but what a trio: 2012's Augustine, 2015's stylistic departure Disorder, and this year's further styistic departure, sci-fi picture Proxima, starring Eva Green and set to debut at the Toronto Film Festival a week from now. Winocour also co-wrote Deniz Gamze Erguven's 2015 arthouse hit Mustang, scoring herself a Cesar in the process. Across all three of her features, she's worked with established actors, having thus far also achieved a level of technical prowess that many directors fail to reach after 30 features. Winocour is one of my favourite directors working today, and Proxima one of my most-anticipated upcoming titles, and all for very good reason!

Brady Jandreau in Chloe Zhao's The Rider

Chloe Zhao

Here's a little bit of good news for aspiring filmmakers hoping to make it big: after just two releases, indie American director Chloe Zhao was selected by Marvel to helm one of their most appealing-looking upcoming projects, next year's ensemble superhero pic Eternals. If studios like Marvel aren't known for hiring distinctive voices to take charge over their commercial product, Zhao's hiring marks a relatively bold move for them - across her two works to date, 2015's Songs My Brothers Taught Me and 2017's multi award-winning The Rider, she's established a keen sense of personal style and purpose, one which ought to make for a most interesting fit with the confines of a mega-budget genre project. Alongside Eternals, we've another upcoming Zhao project to look forward to as well: the as-yet undated Nomadland, itself representing a step up the Hollywood ladder for the young filmmaker with its leading cast of Frances McDormand and David Strathairn.

Rebecca Zlotowski

Four movies in ten years is, for many filmmakers these days, a rather impressive tally. It's even more impressive when one considers the scope of Rebecca Zlotowski's four efforts to date, encompassing gentle comedy in this year's An Easy Girl, or fantastical mystery in 2016's divisive Planetarium, which starred Natalie Portman and Lily-Rose Depp. Her best picture to date, however, remains 2013's Grand Central, the second collaboration between Zlotowski and Lea Seydoux (also starring Tahar Rahim) after her 2010 debut, Dear Prudence. It made a name for this young talent as one of contemporary cinema's most intriguing stylists, a name that she's evidently endeavoured to live up to in the years since. Here is a fearless new auteur, among the brightest talents of the 2010s, and hopefully among the brightest for many years to come.

Image Credit: MovieStillsDB

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