Continuing our series from last week, we look at some of the best-known women directors in the world of cinema who are at the top of their game.
Notable work: The Hurt Locker (2009)
The fourth woman to be nominated at the Academy Awards in the category of Best Director and the only one to take the award home, Kathryn Bigelow’s win marked a monumental occasion for female directors in Hollywood in 2009. The Hurt Locker, Bigelow’s seventh feature film, is an American war film about a three-man US Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team during the Iraq war. The movie was nominated in nine categories and eventually won six.
Bigelow made her directorial debut in 1981 with The Loveless featuring Willem Dafoe and has since then directed movies such as Near Dark (1987), Blue Steel (1989), Point Break (1991) and Zero Dark Thirty (2012).
Notable work: The Piano (1993)
A New Zealand screenwriter, producer and director, Jane Campion is the second of the four women who has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director and the first woman to win the prestigious Palme d’Or (Golden Palm)—the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival.
She wrote and directed her masterpiece The Piano, a 1993 drama film based on the west coast of New Zealand about a mute female piano player and her daughter. The movie won Oscars for Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Original Screenplay. An impressive storyteller, Campion’s later works includes Portrait of a Lady (1996), Holy Smoke! (1999) and Bright Star (2009). She also directed the engaging crime drama Top of the Lake, a 2013 television mini-series.
Notable work: Wadja (2012)
Haifaa al-Mansour, the first female filmmaker from Saudi Arabia, is the one of the country’s best-known and most controversial directors. The first person to shoot a film entirely in Saudi Arabia, Al-Mansour began by making short films. One of her shorts, The Only Way Out, won awards in the United Arab Emirates and in the Netherlands. She also worked on Women Without Shadows, a documentary that talks about the lives of women in the Arab States of the Persian Gulf that was show at 17 international festivals.
The 2012 film Wadjda took five years to complete mainly because the director spent most of her time trying to find financial backing and obtaining film permissions. Filmed on the streets of Riyadh, the filmmaker often worked from the back of a van, as she could not publicly work with the men in the crew. Her upcoming project, A Storm in the Stars, is set for a 2016 release.
Notable works: Elements trilogy
An Indian filmmaker based in Canada, Deepa Mehta is best known for her Elements trilogy—Fire (1996), Earth (1998) and Water (2005)—that talks about the controversial social reform issues in India. Fire, the first in the series, is a romantic drama film starring Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das—one of the few mainstream films in India that explores homosexual relations. Mehta found herself in controversial waters upon the release of the film in India. It was criticised for featuring a lesbian relationship, which is “not a part of Indian history or culture.”
Mehta’s other notable works include The Forgotten Woman (2008), Heaven on Earth (2008) and Midnight’s Children (2012) based on Salman Rushdie’s famous book of the same name.
Notable works: Ratcatcher (1999)
Scottish film director, producer, cinematographer and writer, Lynne Ramsay is best known for her Ratcatcher—her debut feature film—that was screened at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival. Ratcatcher narrates the story of working-class childhood and won critical acclaim and awards. Ramsay has also directed two other movies, Morvern Callere (2002) and We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011). Her stories have recurring themes of guilt, grief, and death. We Need to Talk About Kevin, based on Lionel Shriver’s novel, explored the complicated relationship between a mother and her troubled son. The film was premiered in 2011 at the Cannes Film Festival.