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  • Fem Foundry

Female film directors to watch in 2020

Updated: May 5, 2022

According to a study by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, female directors made a record amount of movies in 2019. It also showed that women directed 12 of 2019’s 100 top-grossing films. These statistics signal a positive shift in the industry and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that this continues to be an upward trend!

To celebrate, we’ve put together a list of brilliant female film directors who are showing the industry how it’s done:

Rachel Lears

Rachel Lears is an American documentary filmmaker. Last year she released a documentary film Knock Down the House, about four women running for Congress in the 2018 midterms, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The film was met with rave reviews and we can’t wait to see what she does next.

Notable works: Knock Down the House (2019), The Hand That Feeds (2014), Birds of Passage (2009)

Lulu Wang

Lulu Wang is a Chinese-American film director, writer, and producer. Last year, she captured our hearts with The Farewell which centres around a Chinese family. When it was advised that she should introduce a prominent white character into the narrative, she refused. We hope to be seeing a lot more of her work in the future!

Notable works: The Farewell (2019), Touch (2015), Posthumous (2014)

Greta Gerwig

Greta Gerwig is an American actress, playwright, screenwriter, and director and is known for her take on bold and quirky female characters. Her latest achievement is the adaptation of Louise May Alcott’s Little Women which was met with high praise. Not only did she direct the film, but she also found herself pregnant at the time, and was six months along by the time filming finished. She’s currently working on the new Barbie movie and we have a feeling she’ll be challenging a few stereotypes!

Notable works: Little Women (2019), Lady Bird (2017)

Autumn de Wilde

Autumn de Wilde is an American photographer and film director who spent many years as a rock photographer and then as a music video and commercial director. More recently, she has garnered attention for her latest movie adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma. Rumour has it she’s already looking for her next feature film.

Notable works: Emma. (2020), The Postman Dreams (2016), Jenny and Johnny: Big Wave (2011)

Ava DuVernay

Ava Marie DuVernay is an American filmmaker and film distributor. In 2012, she won the directing award in the U.S. dramatic competition at the Sundance Film Festival for her film Middle of Nowhere, making her the first African-American woman to receive the award.

Notable works: When they see us (2019), Selma (2014), Middle of Nowhere (2012)

Dominga Sotomayor Castillo

Dominga Sotomayor Castillo is a Chilean filmmaker who is renowned for making powerful and moving coming-of-age films. In 2018, she became the first ever woman to win the Leopard for Best Direction at the Locarno Festival.

Notable works: Too Late to Die Young (2018), Mar (2014), La isla (2014), Thursday Till Sunday (2012)

Desiree Akhavan

Desiree Akhavan is an Iranian/American film director, producer, screenwriter and actress. She made her directorial debut in 2014 with her feature, Appropriate Behaviour, which explored themes of sexuality and cultural identity. Since then she has been working hard on depicting queer female stories to a mainstream audience.

Notable works: The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018), Appropriate Behaviour (2014)

Haifaa al-Mansour

Haifaa al-Mansour is a film director from Saudi Arabia. As well as being one of the country's best-known and most controversial directors, she is also the first female Saudi filmmaker. Her work has influenced a whole new wave of Saudi filmmakers and also drew attention to the call for cinemas to be reopened in the country.

Notable works: The Society (2019), Nappily Ever After (2018), Mary Shelley (2017), Wadjda (2012)

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