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International Women’s Day: Meet 10 Trailblazing Directors

In January, the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative released their Inclusion in the Director’s Chair report, analysing 1,700 top films from 2007 to 2023. White women made up 4.6% of directors in this time-period whilst the statistic for women from under-represented racial / ethnic groups was even lower, only 1.4%. The film industry needs to change. Today, we are delighted to preset you with a list of 10 established and emerging directors creating compelling and thought-provoking cinema.

Alice Diop

Alice Diop is multi-award winning director renowned for her incisive documentaries, such as Towards Tenderness, We and Danton’s Death. In 2022, she made her fictional feature debut with Saint Omer, which follows a young writer who attends the trial of a mother accused of killing her own daughter. The courtroom drama won the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival in 2022 and the César Award for Best First Feature Film in the following year.

Ava DuVernay

Ava DuVernay made her directorial debut at 32 with her short film Saturday Night Life (2006), which is based on her mother’s experiences. She has become a household name since then, known for numerous critically acclaimed films. These include Selma and 13th, which confront the history and current realities of racism in the USA. She is the recipient of a Primetime Emmy Award, BAFTA and was the first Black woman to win the US Directing award at Sundance Festival.

Céline Sciamma

Céline Sciamma has said her films are “always about female characters because they can be themselves only in a private place where they can share their lonliness, their dreams, their attitudes, their ideas.” The multi-award winning director and screenwriter shows this in her Cannes Film Festival award-winning Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019), which follows the blossoming romance between painter Marianne and Héloïse, an aristocratic wife-to-be.

Celine Song

Celine Song is a director, playwright, and screenwriter. Theatrical projects include Endlings and The Seagull on The Sims 4. She has also written for the screen adaptation of the fantasy series The Wheel of Time. In 2023, she made her directorial debut with the film Past Lives, which follows childhood friends Nora and Hae Sung as they reconnect after 20 years apart. The film is nominated for Best Picture and Best Oirignal Screenplay at the Oscars 2024.

Chloé Zhao

A director, screenwriter and producer, Chloé Zhao has quickly become one of the industry’s leading filmmakers. She is best known for her 2021 film Nomadland, which is about a woman who, after losing everything in the Great Recession, embarks on a nomadic journey through the American West. It won the 2021 BAFTA for Best Film as well as the Oscar for Best Picture and Best Directing in 2021 – making her the first ever woman of colour to win the accolade.

Greta Gerwig

Greta Gerwig is a renowned actor, director and screenwriter. She made her feature solo debut with the coming-of-age tale Lady Bird, which won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture in 2018. Two years later, she followed up with her screen adaptation of Little Women and her most recent blockbuster Barbie was the highest grossing film of 2023 ($356m during the opening weekend) and made history as the highest for a woman-directed film in US box office history.

Maryam Touzani

Maryam Touzani is an actress and filmmaker known for the critically acclaimed films Adam (2019) and The Blue Caftan (2022), which were both Morroco’s Oscar submissions for Best International Feature Films in their respective years. In Adam, we meet Alba, a mother who runs a bakery in Casablanca. Samia is a pregnant young woman who knocks at her door one day, requesting a job and roof over her head. This meeting will change their lives forever.

Mira Nair

Mira Nair is a director, producer and founder of the production company Mirabai Films. Her narrative feature debut, Salaam Bombay! (1988), won the Caméra d’Or and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Monsoon Wedding was awarded the BIFA for Best Foreign Independent Film in 2002. Nair is also known for the 2016 chess drama The Queen of Katwe, which follows the true story of professional chess player Phiona Mutesi. 

Nora Twomey

Nora Twomey is an animator, director, screenwriter, producer, voice actress and co-founder of Cartoon Saloon, a multi award-winning animation studio based in Ireland. Her remarkable list of beautiful and moving directorial projects include The Secret of Kells (2009), The Breadwinner (2017) and the heartwarming Netflix movie My Father’s Dragon (2022), which follows the adventures of Elmer as he encounters and builds a friendship with a young dragon.

Sofia Coppola

Sofia Coppola is a director, producer and screenwriter behind renowned films such as The Virgin Suicides (1999), Lost in Translation (2003) and Marie Antoinette (2006). Lost in Translation won three awards at the 2004 Oscars, including the prize for Best Picture, Director and Original Screenplay. Her most recent project Priscilla (2023) was released at the start of the year and follows the eponymous businesswoman’s tumultuous relationship with Elvis Presley.

Submit Your Film to Screen at Aesthetica Short Film Festival 2024

  1. Saint Omer (2022), dir. Alice Diop
  2. Selma (2014), dir. Ava DuVernay
  3. Portrait of a Lady on Fire, dir. Céline Sciamma
  4. Past Lives (2023), dir. Celine Song
  5. Nomadland (2021), dir. Chloé Zhao
  6. Lady Bird (2017), dir. Greta Gerwig
  7. Adam (2019), dir. Maryam Touzani
  8. Queen of Katwe (2016), dir. Mira Nair
  9. The Secret of Kells (2010), dir. Nora Twomey
  10. Lost in Translation (2003), dir. Sofia Coppola