Top 8 female directors

bigelow

Kathryn Bigelow was the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director in 2009. (Credit: 20th Century Fox)

Yet again there was an absence of female directors in this year’s major awards ceremonies nominations. Apart from Kathryn Bigelow’s 2009 Academy Award Best Director win for her film, The Hurt Locker, female directors have largely been neglected from the best director category at the Oscars as well as the BAFTAs.

Despite this, there is an abundance of talented creative women who should be known and appreciated for their contributions to the world of film. So, just in time for International Women’s Day, here’s a list of 10 fantastic female directors.

1) Lynne Ramsey

'You Were Never Really Here' premiere, BFI London Film Festival, UK - 14 Oct 2017

Lynne Ramsey’s latest film You Were Never Really Here starred Joaquin Phoenix in the leading role. (Credit: Pete Summers)

Scottish-born director, cinematographer, writer and producer, Lynne Ramsey, won the Cannes Jury Prize for her first short film Small Deaths and since then has gone on to direct, write and produce a number of successful films. We Need to Talk About Kevin, released in 2011, starring Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly and Ezra Miller was met with positive reviews and was nominated for a number of awards including a BAFTA and a Golden Globe. Most recently Ramsey wrote, directed and produced psychological thriller starring Joaquin Phoenix, You Were Never Really Here. The film won best screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival in 2017.

 

2) Ava DuVernay

Before diving into the world of film, Ava DuVernay was involved in journalism and PR, working for 20th Century Fox, but ended up creating her own PR agency, The DuVernay Agency. But since 2005, after she made her first film Saturday Night Life, DuVernay has been involved in the production of films, television, music videos and advertising. In 2014, she directed Selma, a film based on the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965 led by Martin Luther King Jr. The film was nominated for best picture at the Oscars but DuVernay missed out on a best director nomination. Most recently, DuVernay is set to direct a New Gods adaptation for the DC Extended Universe.

 

3) Jennifer Kent

babdook

Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook terrified audiences in 2014. (Credit: Indiewire)

Starting her career as an actress, Jennifer Kent starred in a number of Australian-based television series before becoming an acting teacher at the Australian Film Television and Radio School. But it was in 2014 that she wrote and made her directorial debut making one of the most memorable horror films of the 21st century, The Babadook. Following the story of a mother and son in turmoil as they are haunted by a disturbing presence in their home, The Babadook received rave reviews from critics and won a number of awards including best horror at the 20th Empire Awards.

 

4) Karyn Kusama

After working on documentary films following her graduation from New York University, Karyn Kusama directed her first feature film, Girlfight, starring Michelle Rodriguez (Avatar, Widows) and released it in 2000. The film received a series of awards including the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Since then, Kusama directed the cult classic comedy horror film Jenifer’s Body in 2009 and in 2015 directed the well-received psychological thriller, The Invitation. Now available on Netflix, The Invitation follows a number of couples at a dinner party gone wrong.

 

5) Valerie Faris

little miss sunshine

The dysfunctional Hoover family captured the hearts of audiences in Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton’s Little Miss Sunshine. (Credit: Eric Lee/Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Teamed up with her husband, Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris has won six MTV Music Video Awards while directing music videos for The Smashing Pumpkins, R.E.M. and Oasis just to name a few. However, the pair made their feature film directorial debut in 2006 with the highly successful, Little Miss Sunshine, which one two BAFTAs and two Oscars. The film starred big names including Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell and Alan Arkin and followed the Hoover family as they took a road-trip to watch Olive (Abigail Breslin), compete in the ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ beauty pageant. Faris is currently working on Living With Yourself, a comedy series starring Paul Rudd set to be released on Netflix in the next year.

 

6) Catherine Hardwicke

It wouldn’t be a proper list of great female directors without the woman responsible for the first movie in the Twilight Saga. Love it or hate it, based on the novel by Stephanie Meyer, Twilight made $35.7 million in the US on its opening day and at the time, the film’s opening weekend gross was the most ever made by a film directed by a women. Twilight aside, Catherine Hardwicke also directed The Nativity Story (2006), Red Riding Hood (2011) and most recently Miss Bala (2019).

 

7) Mary Harron

American-Cover

Christian Bale starred as Patrick Bateman in Marry Harron’s American Psycho. (Credit: Culturised)

Starting out as a music journalist writing for Punk magazine, Mary Harron also wrote for The Guardian and The Observer before directing a number of documentaries for the BBC. Following her directorial debut I Shot Andy Warhol, Harron went on to direct American Psycho in the year 2000, based on the book by Brett Easton Ellis. The black-comedy starred Christian Bale in the leading role as the infamous Patrick Bateman, alongside Willem Defoe, Jared Leto, Justin Theroux and Reese Witherspoon. Harron has also directed numerous TV series including the 2017 Netflix miniseries, Alias Grace. 

 

8) Kathryn Bigelow

Becoming the first woman ever to win the Academy Award for Best Director in 2009 for her 2008 film, The Hurt Locker. Bigelow’s first feature directorial debut was The Loveless (1981), a biker drama starring Willem Defoe in the leading role. Since then, Kathryn Bigelow has directed and written a number of successful movies including the 2017 film Detroit, which stars John Boyega, Will Poulter and Algee Smith, just to name a few.

 

You can check out our favourite female film characters podcast here.

 

Podcast: Our favourite female characters

In this podcast, Liam Mackay, Bryce Arthur, Jade du Preez and Olivia Hill discuss their favourite favourite female characters in film.

You can also check out our movie and TV news round-up here!

Review: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Chiwetel Ejiofor‘s directorial debut brings us the inspiring story of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.

Written, directed by and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) and based on the memoir of the same name, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind tells the true story of a young boy and his fight to save his village from a devastating famine.

Set in the early 2000s in Malawi, we meet William Kamkwamba (Maxwell Simba), a young boy living with his family near the rural village of Wimbe. The Kamkwambas are a family of farmers and it’s clear from the start that times are hard. William’s father, Trywell (Chiwetel Ejiofor) works tirelessly in the fields each day and the family are struggling to pay William’s school fees. However, things take a turn for the worse when the village crops fail due to a horrendous drought. Many are forced to leave to avoid starvation, and the Kamkwambas are left desperate after they are robbed of their remaining grain stores.

Although William gets banned from school because his parents have been unable to pay the sufficient fees, he persuades his science teacher (who is interested in William’s sister) to allow him access to the school library. Towards the beginning of the film, we learn that William runs a small business fixing radios for people in his village and has a keen interest in electronics, but it’s at the library he learns about energy and wind power. After reading in the library and rummaging in the local scrap yard, he soon becomes convinced that he can save his village from hunger by building a windmill to help power a water pump to support the crops.

The boy who harnessed the wind 2

Maxwell Simba plays William Kamkwamba in new Netflix release, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. (Credit: Netflix)

The film is a fantastic directorial debut from Chiwetel Ejiofor. It is visually stunning and succeeds in immersing the audience into the lives of the struggling Wimbe villagers. Ejiofor’s performance as William’s father is just as impressive. Although he has nasty traits, his facial expressions and the emotion in his eyes helps the audience connect with the character. You grow to care about Trywell and understand he is under a tremendous amount of strain to try to provide for his family.

Chiwetel Ejiofor is fantastic, but the standout performance comes from Maxwell Simba’s portrayal of William. Simba shows just as much raw emotion as veteran actor Ejiofor’s character, and this is Simba’s film debut. Apart from a few short scenes, the movie is essentially told from William’s perspective, giving Simba a tremendous task of guiding the audience through the narrative, but he executes this perfectly. In each and every scene, you can sense William’s drive and passion, even when those around him don’t necessarily believe in his ambition. It’s truly inspiring: you want to see him succeed and prove everyone wrong.

Despite the convincing performances from the cast, the film does have a pacing issue. There are several scenes and plot points that could have been shortened or left out entirely. For example, William’s sister and her ongoing relationship with William’s teacher features quite heavily but there isn’t much of a pay-off. It may have been more interesting to see this plot line replaced with additional scenes with the village chief, Chief Wimbe, played by Joseph Marcell (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air). However, since the film is based on a true story, it’s difficult to comment on what should and shouldn’t have been included.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is by no means a perfect film and it’s not one I will be rushing back to watch immediately. But the emotional performances from the cast make it memorable and Chiwetel Ejiofor has triumphed with his directorial debut.

You can check out the trailer for The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind below.

Read more of Olivia’s film reviews here:

Paddleton

Vice

 

Entertainment review: March 8th

Liam Mackay and Olivia Hill round up this week’s entertainment news. Topics include the new Game of Thrones season 8 trailer and the latest releases.

EN4 News Movie and TV Round-up

Liam Mackay and Olivia Hill round up this week’s entertainment news. Topics include the Oscars and the latest movie releases.

For more discussion on the Oscars, check out our Oscars reflection podcast here.

You can also check out Michaella Wheatley’s review of Fighting with my Family, or Olivia Hill’s review of Netflix’s Paddleton.

Film Review: Fighting with my Family

 

Screenshot 2019-03-01 at 09.49.18

Saraya Knight (Florence Pugh) fights to become a wrestler in Fighting with my Family (Credit: IMDb)

It’s not surprising that this underdog story is a bit wobbly on the ropes, but the cast of Fighting with my Family pack a mean punch.

Straight off the bat, or should it be “straight after the bell”, wrestling is centre stage. The pros – The Rock, Hulk Hogan and John Cena – are seen in action on a TV screen. A young boy replicates their moves until the channel is suddenly changed by his younger sister.

In retaliation, the boy attempts to get his sister in a headlock. His actions are fumbled, but he is quickly corrected when his dad enters the living room. The girl is then challenged to get out of her brother’s hold when their mum follows through the door.

This is the Knight family.

Saraya Knight, played by Outlaw King’s Florence Pugh, is the only daughter of a wrestling-obsessed family from Norwich, England. The movie follows Saraya through her fight to become a wrestler for the WWE, where she becomes ‘Paige’ in the ring (spoiler: she’s a massive fan of the programme Charmed).

The film passes as a sports movie, but the quirky theatrics that come with professional wrestling – otherwise referred to as “soap opera in spandex” – puts a new spin on the somewhat overplayed underdog plot.

Throughout the film, the audience constantly question whether Saraya truly does want to become a wrestler, or if she is just following the dreams of her parents (played by Nick Frost and Lena Headey) and brother (Jack Lowden). Her training is definitely tough – 4,000 miles from home in America, with no friends and no family around – but the Knight’s close-knit bond puts up a fight to see Saraya through.

The heartwarming family-feel to the film is even more apparent in the closing credits featuring home videos of the Knight family. It becomes clear that Stephen Merchant, who wrote and directed the movie, did not create this energetic ensemble in his mind and that it is reflective of a true story.

Fighting with my Family is in cinemas now – find a showing near you here.

 

Film Review: Paddleton

22-paddleton.w700.h467

Mark Duplass and Ray Romano bond over a game of ‘paddleton’ in new Netflix drama (Credit: Patrick Wymore/Netflix)

Netflix’s new bromance drama, Paddleton, will have you chuckling and reaching for the tissues at the same time.

Recently released on Netflix following its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival at the beginning of the month, Paddleton follows best friends Michael (Mark Duplass) and Andy (Ray Romano). The two face significant changes in their lives when they find out Michael has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

The two embark on a journey together after Michael decides he wants to take life-ending drugs before his illness becomes too painful, and asks Andy to join him on a ‘road trip’ to purchase the medication to help him end his life. Although Andy is hesitant at first and continues to struggle to come to terms with Michael’s decision throughout the film, he accepts his friend’s choice and the two go on a strange, yet sort of beautiful journey.

Directed by Alex Lehmann (Blue Jay), Paddleton provides us with a refreshing take on ‘bromances’. We are often led to believe in film and television there is something funny or amusing about two men having a bromance. That there is something weird or abnormal about grown men having close platonic friendships. But Paddleton debunks this idea and shows us it is completely normal and healthy for two grown men to have a close, meaningful friendship with one another.

In Paddleton, Michael and Andy are essentially the most important people in each other’s lives. They’re neighbours, they eat together, they talk about work, they bond over watching kung fu movies every night and they play ‘paddleton’ with together. (Paddleton is similar to squash, but the ball has to bounce off the wall and land in a barrel).

But despite the pleasing friendship between the two leads, there is no escaping the serious subject matter explored in the film. The concept of ‘assisted dying’ has been examined a number of times in film and television over the years; perhaps most recently in Louis Theroux’s Altered States documentary, Choosing Death which sparked a lot of conversations online. It’s not an easy topic to digest and many people have conflicted feelings about the matter, but Paddleton manages to tackle the upsetting elements of the film in a sensitive manner and the interjections of comedy between Duplass and Romano ensure the narrative isn’t too heavy.

Ray Romano and Mark Duplass complement each other perfectly. Although neither character is particularly talkative, the dialogue is engaging and their conversations are amusing and believable. The level of comedy fades appropriately as the movie goes on, and towards the end of the film the interactions between Michael and Andy are raw and emotional.

The performances by both leads were exceptional but I was particularly impressed with Romano. We may perhaps be used to seeing Ray Romano in comedic roles. I for one remember watching Everybody Loves Raymond every morning before school. But Romano has shown more and more he is an actor with range. His performance in Michael Showalter’s Academy Award winning 2017 film, The Big Sickwas touching, memorable and entirely believable, so it’s exciting to see him take on a similar role in Paddleton.

This film is in no way revolutionary and it is not something I could watch again and again. The pacing is slow at times and nothing particularly special happens until the very end of the film. In fact, some may argue that the majority of the movie is largely insignificant. But Paddleton is a film I would recommend. It’s simple, but has a powerful message about the importance of friendship that we can all relate to.

You can watch the trailer for Paddleton below.

To read another of Olivia’s Netflix reviews, click here.

2019 BAFTA Nominees

The 72nd British Academy Film Awards will take place this Sunday, February 10th.

The Favourite leads with 12 nominations, followed by Roma and A Star is Born, which are both up for 7 awards.

Here’s a look at the key nominees:

 

You can find a full list of nominees for all awards here.

Edinburgh Napier alumni cast in new Netflix series

Blair Kincaid, who studied acting for stage and screen at Edinburgh Napier University, has been cast in new Netflix fantasy series The Witcher alongside Hollywood superstar Henry Cavill. 

Blair’s page on Spotlight.com states that the actor is “currently filming in the new Netflix epic The WITCHER,” and lists Napier/Queen Margaret, BA(Hons) Acting for Stage and Screen from the years 2013-2015 as his education.

The Witcher, based on the books by polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, follows professional monster hunter Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill) on a quest to spare his adopted daughter Ciri (Freya Allan) from a cruel fate.

HenryCavillWitcher

Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia in new Netflix series The Witcher. (Credit: Netflix)

Blair will be playing Crach an Craite, a battle-hardened commander of the military forces of the Skellige Isles, who comes to the heroes aid several times over the course of the story. The Skellige Isles are home to seafaring warriors which appear to be inspired by a mixture of Celtic and Viking culture, who don tartan and belong to clans. They most resemble a group of real historical people known as the Norse-Gaels who were a hybrid culture of the Gaels and Norsemen. We can expect that Blair will keep his Scottish accent to play Crach.

Crach an Craite has been represented before in The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, a video game series also based on the books by Sapkowski, though the games act as a sequel to the books while Netflix’s series will be a direct adaptation of the novels.

Ian Dunn, lecturer in the Acting Department at Edinburgh Napier University, says that it’s not a surprise that Blair Kincaid will act in the Netflix series.

“He was a talented student and since he moved to London he’s been up for different jobs. It feels great that he got his chance and joined other successful acting students,” Ian Dunn says.

The Witcher is set to be released on Netflix in 2019, but we can assume it’ll be towards the end of the year as filming is still taking place in Budapest and the Canary Isles.

If Blair fairs well in this coming series, we can hope to see him join the ranks of famous Scottish actors such as Ewen McGregor, James McAvoy and Gerard Butler!

 

Rare pieces displayed at Mary Queen of Scot’s exhibition

 

MQS

The exhibition has a copy of the 2019 movie script. (Credit: Daisy Smith)

Rare treasures are being displayed for two days only at a Mary Queen of Scot’s exhibition in Edinburgh.

The exhibition showcases pieces from throughout the ages from childhood letters, to copies of movie scripts, including that of the 2019 release starring Saoirse Ronan.

The film has catapulted Mary Queen of Scot’s back into popularity since its release into cinemas.

Visitors will be able to cast their eyes on Mary’s Great Seal, a childhood book and engravings of her execution.

The display will run today and tomorrow at the National Library marking the anniversary of her execution on February 8, 1587.

Dr Annette Hagen, curator at the National Museum, said of the exhibition:

“One of the highlights is the sequence of engravings we have of her execution because today is the actual anniversary of the execution.

“The big thing about today is that we are showing them in one place and people can come and get some interpretation from them. The rarest pieces are obviously the unique items and that is the letters.

“We have a letter she wrote at the age of 11 to her mother Mary of Guise and we are showing the very last letter she wrote six hours before her beheading her brother in northern France.”

An array of historic sites from across the country with links to Mary Queen of Scots will be showcased in a tourism campaign following the popularity of the 2019 film.

An interactive map has been created featuring 19 different locations which were either visited by Mary, or by the moviemakers. This includes her birthplace of Linlithgow and Holyrood House, where she lived in the 1560s.

The exhibition is free to the public and is open today and Saturday, February 9th at the National Museum of Scotland from 10 am until 4 pm.

%d bloggers like this: