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by Matthew Hammett Knott
July 25, 2013 10:37 AM
99 Comments
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Heroines of Cinema: The 10 Most Exciting Young Female Directors in the World Today

Photo by Brian Brooks. Dee Rees at the Gotham Awards.

Dee Rees
Age: 35-36
Nationality: American
Claim to fame: breaking ground for lesbian cinema
Her story: When “Blue is the Warmest Colour” won the Palme d’or earlier this summer, there were voices that wondered whether Cannes would have been so quick to embrace a teenage lesbian drama had it not had a middle aged straight male director at its helm. Yet two years earlier, Dee Rees proved that such narratives do not need the hand of patriarchal guidance in order to break through. Her semi-autobiographical film “Pariah” scored a 95% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and awards from all quarters including the Indie Spirits, the National Board of Review and Sundance. An unprecedented level of industry endorsement for a black lesbian narrative from a black lesbian director, Rees’ cinematic voice is compelling on its own terms and essential in the context of the heterocentric, white male-dominated landscape it inhabits.

Mia Hansen-Love
Age: 32
Nationality: French
Claim to fame: Conquering Cannes in her twenties
Her story: It is rare enough for female directors to win acclaim at notoriously male-dominated Cannes. It is even rarer to do it young. Mia Hansen-Love was 23 when she made her feature debut, and 28 when her third feature - 2009’s “The Father of my Children” - won the Special Jury Prize from Cannes’ Un Certain Regard line up. Recently listed among the Top 20 directors in the world today by The Guardian, it seems that her already prolific career is only on its opening chapter.

SXSW Keynote speaker Lena Dunham

Lena Dunham

Age: 27
Nationality: American
Claim to fame: showing Hollywood that girls can do the “boy genius” thing
Her story: Soderbergh won the Palme d’or at 26. Spielberg directed Jaws aged 27. For her part, Lena Dunham has written and directed a feature film and two television series, and won a DGA award for her direction of the latter. Dunham has refused to apologise for maintaining her dramatic focus on her own privileged young white female worldview. And though it has meant facing ten times the criticism of say, Wes Anderson or Noah Baumbach, she has succeeded in proving herself, creatively speaking, as their equal.

Haifaa Al-Mansour
Age: 38
Nationality: Saudi Arabian
Her claim to fame: re-writing cinema history
Her story: Al-Mansour’s narrative is no less remarkable for having been oft-repeated. “Wadjda” is both the first ever feature film directed by a Saudi woman, and the first ever feature film shot entirely within Saudi Arabia. Al-Mansour had to direct some scenes hidden inside a van, so as not to be witnessed directing male crew members. It is a story so remarkable that it risks overshadowing the film itself, but the enthusiastic worldwide distribution the film has received - opening in the UK last week - is proof that its on-screen narrative is equally compelling. In a country where cinema has been effectively banned for decades, and where women’s rights are some of the most oppressive in the world, Al-Mansour’s is now a hugely vital voice, on screen and off.

Sarah Polley
Age: 34
Nationality: Canadian
Claim to fame: telling stories on her own terms
Her story: Polley is not the first director to straddle documentary and fiction genres, but the variety of her career output so far is pleasing evidence of a creative sensibility in full flight. Aged 27, her directorial debut “Away from Her” was a huge success, twice Oscar-nominated and widely embraced by her peers. Both of her films since then have been refreshingly idiosyncratic - 2012's "Take this Waltz" polarised reviewers but drew raves from many for its dry emotional honesty. This year, it is hybrid documentary "Stories we Tell", an unclassifiable exploration of Polley’s own family history, which has been garnering acclaim worldwide. Up next is an adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s “Alias Grace”.

Ava DuVernay

Ava DuVernay

Age: 40
Nationality: American
Claim to fame: being a game changer
Her story: Ava DuVernay is a revitalising voice on the indie film circuit. After becoming the first black woman to win the Best Director award at Sundance for her second feature “Middle of Nowhere”, she has shown herself to be a passionate advocate for disrupting traditional forms of filmmaking and distribution. A constant champion of her fellow directors, she is always happy to acknowledge her status as a black female director, if only because she appears to see it as both a necessary conversation and a cause for celebration. Earlier this month, it was announced that she would direct the Martin Luther King biopic “Selma” following Lee Daniels’ departure from the project. An appointment like this is highly significant - as Women and Hollywood’s Melissa Silverstein pointed out, “movies about epic male historical figures are usually reserved for [male directors]”. But DuVernay has already proven herself as no prisoner to establishment convention.

READ MORE: From Emma Thompson and Tilda Swinton to Ava DuVernay and Sally Potter: All Our Heroines of Cinema

Matthew Hammett Knott is a London-based filmmaker and writer. Follow him on Twitter.

99 Comments

  • Belleville | December 23, 2013 7:54 AMReply

    Meet Fanny Hoetzeneder. A young french film director based in London. With her biggest project to date, "Belleville", being screened at the London BFI in June 2014.

  • Belleville | December 23, 2013 7:54 AMReply

    Meet Fanny Hoetzeneder. A young french film director based in London. With her biggest project to date, "Belleville", being screened at the London BFI in June 2014.

  • Belleville | December 23, 2013 7:54 AMReply

    Meet Fanny Hoetzeneder. A young french film director based in London. With her biggest project to date, "Belleville", being screened at the London BFI in June 2014.

  • Belleville | December 23, 2013 7:52 AMReply

    Meet Fanny Hoetzeneder. A young french film director based in London. With her biggest project to date, "Belleville", being screened at the London BFI in June 2014.

  • Belleville | December 23, 2013 7:52 AMReply

    Meet Fanny Hoetzeneder. A young french film director based in London. With her biggest project to date, "Belleville", being screened at the London BFI in June 2014.

  • Georgie | August 9, 2013 4:24 AMReply

    And you might want to add Annemarie Jacir, Palestine's first female feature film director and a multiple award-winner. Her current film, 'When I Saw You' is playing at the Melbourne film festival right now and is already released elsewhere in the world. She is 39 and was 34 when she made her first feature, I believe.

  • Lee | August 9, 2013 3:00 AMReply

    You may want to check out Berlin-based Esther Loewe, whose latest short film is premiering this month at the Sao Paulo International Short Film Festival. Here's a link to the trailer:

    http://vimeo.com/36763505

    One of her next major projects will be a full-length feature film.

  • Lee | August 9, 2013 2:56 AMReply

    You may want to check out Berlin-based Esther Löwe, whose latest short film is premiering this month at the São Paulo International Short Film Festival. Here's a link to the trailer:

    http://vimeo.com/36763505

    One of her next major projects will be a full-length feature film.

  • Martin Olson | August 1, 2013 4:09 PMReply

    What an excellent and fascinating list. I'd add to it the Canadian indie film directing team Jen Soska and Sylvia Soska, twin sisters whose amazing indie film "American Mary" was released this year. Thanks for the article!

  • Martin Olson | August 1, 2013 4:05 PMReply

    What an excellent and fascinating list. I'd add to it the Canadian indie film directing team Jen Soska and Sylvia Soska, twin sisters whose amazing indie film "American Mary" was released this year. Thanks for the article!

  • Martin Olson | August 1, 2013 4:04 PMReply

    What an excellent and fascinating list. I'd add to it the Canadian indie film directing team Jen Soska and Sylvia Soska, twin sisters whose amazing indie film "American Mary" was released this year. Thanks for the article!

  • JD | July 30, 2013 2:34 PMReply

    Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. Filmmaking is a tough game, whether you're male or female. A huge mount of male filmmakers struggle just as much, so get over it. In 90% of cases IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH GENDER.

  • Sophie | August 6, 2013 4:58 AM

    "regressive dehumanizing ideologies that work to prevent and curb open dialogue"

    This is a wonderfully ironic flourish to finish a multi-comment thread, on an article about women in film. I guess Matthew's rhetoric was so oppressive we all felt prevented from slugging it out. Oh, wait...

  • JD | August 2, 2013 9:54 AM

    You're right. My beef isn't necessarily with journalistic accuracy. It's with regressive, dehumanizing ideologies that work to prevent and curb open dialogue.

  • MIRANDAJUNE | August 2, 2013 3:18 AM

    No, JD, your beef is not with journalistic accuracy. Let's all recall the tone and content of your opening remark, and leave it at that.

  • JD | August 1, 2013 9:23 PM

    Quote from Sophie "You are trying to prove sexism doesn't exist against the repeated claims of men and women that it does."

    Ha ha what? This is not the argument at all.
    Quote from JD:
    "There is certainly well-documentated and clear cases of gender discrimination in Hollywood."
    "If sexism exists, which I'm sure it does in some cases, for both men and women"

    My beef was with this specific article, and many like it, which present uncontextualized, vague, sweeping statements which may or may not be accurate. Yes, causal explanations is exactly what we need to be looking for on all fronts. Reactionary rhetoric, rooted in indoctrination don't really help in ensuring equality for all does it?

    I should have prefaced this whole argument by saying I'm Canadian.

  • Sophie | August 1, 2013 4:57 AM

    apologies, one of my sentences got cut off, it should read:

    Either there is a massive conspiracy out there or there is some kind of problem.

  • sophie | August 1, 2013 4:55 AM

    Beautifully put MirandaJune.

    And yes, JD, you *are* trying to prove something. You are trying to prove sexism doesn't exist against the repeated claims of men and women that it does. Once again: that you are asserting a claim does not make it fact. In a world where sexism so endemic, it is actually up to you to prove that the film industry is somehow immune from that.

    You are interested in logic. So let's go with this:

    "Fine, of the 50% of film graduates are women, but only of 5% of Hollywood directors are women". What does that even prove?"

    Well, let's start by saying I agree with you. The manipulation of statistics is endemic and frustrating. It's hard to cite here as links aren't allowed. If you go to the Women Make Movies site they have a list of statistics linked to their sources. Again, read some of the pieces from the Women in Hollywood blog run on this cite. Either there is a massive conspiracy out there

    But humour me a little, as the article didn't cite its source but we can find plenty similar with a single google. Let's say it meets good standards of soundness.

    So what does it prove? Well, it is an empirical claim about the number of women who start out with some recognizable ambition to go into film and another claim about the number who end up doing that. I agree with you, there is no obvious causal explanation within those numbers. It could be a causal fact that when human women study film this results in an overwhelming desire to abandon the movies, take up the lute and move to Alaska. Except, well, no. Why? Because people *have* asked the very questions you are demanding, and the answer is consistently the same: women face all number of hurdles which have their root in sexist assumptions and practices. It can be casual "guys prefer working with guys" or more pernicious "women aren't suited to x", "x needs a man's perspective". I've heard both of these phrases used in my time and I'm not alone.

    Testimony has long been considered a form of proof (both in the courtroom and outside, so I hope that satisfies you). The testimony of the women involved, and plenty of the men who witness it, suggests the industry has a problem. In the face of this evidence, yes, it is up to you to counter it with more than "me and a couple buddies don't like this, so we'll deny it exists". I have been to film schools and talked to women in the programmes there: I admit, this is subjective evidence, but in my experience over, say, five years of doing this, I have repeatedly found that the women in their graduating year want success just as much as the men do.

    Again, I think the very fact that numerous 'women in film' groups exist is good proof that there is some kind of problem (Women Make Movies, Power Up, etc). Are you really asking us to believe all of these women are using gender as a 'scapegoat', as you so charmingly put it in your last?

    If I were you, I'd ask yourself why your female friends don't express any worries about sexism to you. It could be that you work with the only people who don't notice it. Or it could be you.

  • MIRANDAJUNE | August 1, 2013 3:49 AM

    JD - every woman here will recognise a misogynist's tools. You denounce whining, request calm and logic, and yet have no arguments of your own and no interest in acknowledging aspects of sexism that are so self-evident to everyone else here they don't need proof. We are the lived proof. Start talking to us without patronising us, or you remain part of the problem.

  • JD | July 31, 2013 11:49 PM

    I am not the one trying to prove anything and so the onus is not on me to provide proof. If sexism exists, which I'm sure it does in some cases, for both men and women, then it is our responsibility to expose it in a logical, calm and accurate way. Again, generalization don't serve to assist in eradicating any prejudice. We, culturally, seem to have learned to accept statistics at face value, without context, that are often warped by special interest groups, despite being warned by the very people providing them that that is not wise. Fine, of the 50% of film graduates are women, but only of 5% of Hollywood directors are women. What does that even prove? Nothing on it's own. It's what I believe we call conjecture in a courtroom environment, and would be torn apart in a matter of seconds by good counsel. Where is the citation in the article for this statistic? Of the graduating 50% how many actually want to work as directors, how many stay in the industry after school, and in what positions. There so many questions that have to be asked when presented with a statistic like this.

    There is certainly well-documentated and clear cases of gender discrimination in Hollywood, but concrete evidence of any systemic bias has grown fairly scarce these days.

    For your question: how do you explain the extreme disproportion between women who want to make it and don't and men who want to make it and do? This is a very slanted question isn't it? I can't really answer this. Come to this with a clear and unbiased point of view and ask better questions like how many women versus men pursue a career in film. That's something I be interested in researching. And what's the percentage of men pursuing a film career who actually become successful? No matter how you look at it, the numbers are fairly small. Filmmaking is an elite game.

    And it's not just my own industry experience I'm taking into account. I've also listened and considered the experience of female friends, co-workers etc in the industry, and very few have complaints about any sexism.

  • Sophie | July 31, 2013 7:13 PM

    You are very interested in 'proof', JD. Yet you wish here to assert some claims and the only proof you offer is your own subjective experience. Your conclusions are also not above requiring good arguments. (I'm afraid I'm not going to jump on the "absolute proof" bandwagon as I think even scientists abandoned that one sometime in the 1960s). You talk about 'vague accusatory statements being thrown out there without any specifics or proof': tell me the proof you have that men and women who discuss sexism in the industry are merely 'whining'? Or your proof that women use 'gender as a scapegoat'? (Pretty nasty phrase that one, by the way.)

    Rather than bullishly demand proof from other people, perhaps you should start building a case of your own that goes beyond your limited subjective experience. I've been in the industry for 14 years. The fact that I am i.) successful ii.) hard-working iii.) a believer in the very sexism you deny does not really make for a good argument against you: at this level it's just a clash of experiences. But when you add to my experience the voices of multiple men and women who have experienced the same, your dismissive attitude becomes harder to maintain. There are plenty of clear-eyed men in the industry who see things similarly; the author of this article seems to be one of them. He has another article on here about making his first feature film; I suggest you read it. They won't let me add links here, but there are plenty of interviews out there with female directors who talk about the prevalence of sexism. In fact, just look at the back catalog of articles in Indiewire's 'Women and Hollywood' blog. It's a veritable playground of sexist specifics.

    So you seem to be the person lacking proof here. Tell me, for example, how you explain the fact that 50% of film-school graduates are women and 5% of working Hollywood directors are women? Are you genuinely arguing that the reason for this is the men work harder? (If your answer is yes, you definitely don't work in the industry). If your answer is no, and you want to be as dismissive as you are about all arguments to do with sexism, I'm afraid the onus is on you, not me, to come up with an alternative.

    Let's be very clear about something else: I am not saying women can't write or make shit films. Surprise surprise, they can and do. I've had stuff cross my desk and the fact that it is made by a woman does not change my opinion that it is poorly developed crap. But you sound like someone who has struggled, met some such woman who has attributed her own lack of success to her gender rather than her lack of talent, and has decided in frustration that *everyone* who mentions sexism must be the same.* Apart from that being a particularly ungenerous extrapolation, it is also short-sighted. To repeat the question, how do you explain the extreme disproportion between women who want to make it and don't and men who want to make it and do?

    Sexism is structural, it is deep-seated and sometimes no amount of hard work can be enough to bypass it. You can close your eyes to it if you like, but that won't make it go away.


    *This is a generous reading.

  • JD | July 31, 2013 3:11 PM

    I guess what I'm sick of most is hearing vague accusatory statements being thrown out there without any specifics or proof. Saying that there are less women filmmakers than men proves absolutely nothing on its own. It's not evidence of sweeping gender discrimination in the film industry. It's not willful ignorance to think that there is little difference in the obstacles faced by both genders in getting their films made, it's just a fact. This comes from nearly a decade working in the industry. Repeatedly, I've seen women filmmakers complain of problems that I, as male, have also faced while mounting and working on various projects, but I don't have the luxury of using my gender as a scapegoat. If I fail at something, it just means I have to work harder, try again etc. Find me absolute proof, something that doesn't just amount to whining, of this "widespread discriminatory epidemic," especially on the indie circuit then I'll gladly withdraw my argument.

  • Sophie | July 31, 2013 6:14 AM

    Bullshit right back! No one is denying how tough film-making is, but you have to be willfully ignorant to think that i.) women and men face the same kinds of obstacles and that ii.) these obstacles are equally inhibiting to both sexes. The statistics just don't bear that out. Caps lock doesn't make your unsubstantiated conclusion regarding 90% of cases any more compelling. It just makes you look like you think shouting is a form of persuasion. It's not.

  • sara | July 30, 2013 3:08 AMReply

    I was wondering how many of these women have children? I know it's a personal question but it would be really interesting to find out. I find there are very few examples of successful female directors with kids. Are the two really incompatible? My current experience (as a mother trying to direct) seems to be saying so.

  • MHK | July 30, 2013 3:56 AM

    I know that Mia Hansen-Love has a child, not sure about any of the others

  • MHK | July 30, 2013 3:52 AM

    Hi Sara, it's a good point - there will be some discussion of this with an interviewee in the next column in this series, due next week

  • Grapost | July 28, 2013 9:34 AMReply

    Women never last as movie makers because they always move on to their next production which is having kids and raising a family.

  • .. | July 28, 2013 7:23 AMReply

    Nadine Labaki?

  • Joe | July 27, 2013 8:52 PMReply

    You decry the sexism in the film industry, then blithely remark "My focus on youth need signify no more than an inspiring look to the future." Yeah, we really should rule out great women because they're old, that makes perfect sense. I hear very similar justification from apologists for the sexism we see. "No disrespect intended but..."

  • Kate B | July 31, 2013 6:28 AM

    What most surprises me about these comments trying to make Matthew ageist *and* sexist is the fact that a mere click away sit a whole set of articles in which he has lauded older women who are consistently ignored. To the (young?) people so valiantly defending the honour of we "old" in film, a plea: get off this comment board and get writing positive articles about the women you admire, whatever age. Let's not knock down one of the few voices consistently raising these issues. Let's instead make sure they are raised by a plurality of voices, reflecting the plurality of opinions found here. Petty squabbling isn't going to get any of us who care about these issues anywhere.

  • MHK | July 28, 2013 5:19 AM

    Do I sound like a sexist apologist? Or have you just isolated the one sentence you can possibly interpret as sexist, even though it very clearly isn't in the context of this article? My reasons for focusing on younger directors have been very clearly stated. I don't think Bigelow, Arnold, Coppola, Ramsay, Denis, Campion, Potter etc are suffering for not being included in this one particular list.

  • Joe | July 27, 2013 8:49 PMReply

    What, no Sofia Coppola?? Come on.

  • ANITA | July 28, 2013 7:02 AM

    read the small print, wise guy

  • Jo | July 27, 2013 2:37 PMReply

    "Dunham has refused to apologise for maintaining her dramatic focus on her own privileged young white female worldview."

    Wait. So its a point in her favor that she refuses to apologize for contributing to the marginalization of People of Color through irresponsible representation and horribly offensive tweets and articles? There are plenty of other young female directors who are less problematic than Lena Dunham who belong on this list. Let's please stop glamorizing her hipster racism.

  • Kathy Pihlaja | July 27, 2013 9:42 AMReply

    Keep an eye out for Rachael Joy, a producer with an incredible perspective, experience and savy. What she does, works.

  • billy | July 26, 2013 7:52 PMReply

    Congratulations on mentioning two young french female directors and yet managing to forget Rebecca Zlotowsky

  • Tiffany Hewitt | July 27, 2013 6:18 PM

    Congratulations on making an informative addition into a rebarbative attack! What is it with people being so snarky in these comments? Jeez. No one is saying this is a frickin definitive list. Going to google Rebecca Zlotowsky now, so thanks for the tip, even if you are probably a bit of an ass-hat in real life.

  • vandalu | July 26, 2013 5:08 PMReply

    It's not who is most talented, capable, determined and productive, it's who "gets the most attention and publicity"...and statistically male writer, producers, critics and other gate-keepers seem to often be on gender auto-pilot...male screenwriters and directors simply don't have to try as hard to get a meeting or a green light or a glowing review, all of which are seen as somehow reflecting great ideas and/or economic worth. My aim as a filmmaker is to entertain, in my peculiar voice, without permission and industry ego status, it just seems to be a helluva lot more fun. (director of 2 indie features & wrote/directed "Easy Abby" lesbian web series, which has 9 Million Views w/o a marketing budget or even one famous person).

  • Jen Zal | July 26, 2013 2:09 PMReply

    Fascinating how the one thing that seems to set women apart in the public arena - the glass ceiling determined by our age - is the very thing that has been used here to segregate us yet again by guess what? A man. Who by his very rationalisation of the age bracket imposed, negates the very thing that he is attempting to get us to 'see'. Yep one would never expect such a thing to be imposed upon the sanctified world of male filmmaking dominance. The fact that such 'lists' are not labelled specifically for men shows that such a list would never be assumed as is in this article about women filmmakers. Over 40 and most certainly over 50 women (like myself) are having monumental problems breaking into the industry. it is no different if I had been an actor and found myself at the rotten end of the deal because of my age. The majority of women attending this article online are under 40 and probably are not even aware nor care about the discrepancy that comes with age in our culture and therefore society.

    Being pinned - yet again - and finding myself out in the cold I am dismayed at the continuing lack of persistence of vision (pun intended). Your examples that you use in the post below are shallow as these women have either had a serious heads-up from their families - Coppola being born with silver nitrate coated spoon in her mouth, and Campion having graduated from VCA having made her first feature all before her 40th birthday so the reference placing them with women over 40 doesn't really count.

    While I admire her work immensely this forum does not have space to use these examples to justify your position to make what you are writing ok. And maybe you haven't swatted up on your history. I will give credit where it is due and I thank you for highlighting the dilemmas faced by women in this profession but I do think that you have missed the boat on some of the seriously gaping holes in our culture that allow this type of discrimination to self-seed. Sophie says that 'You would never make a list of 'best young male directors' because all of the lists of 'best young directors' are (sexistly) packed full of men anyway. They don't need their own list!'
    This does not justify the explanation for creating a list as such for women. So guess what? Nobody does. Well women don't need their own list either and it is high time that women are included on such generic lists where they exist regardless. 'Making a list' such as this one does not fix the problem - it adds to it especially in the realm of the subconscious and how we regard women in our society.

    Considering some of your other posts re: 'She's over this list's arbitrary age limit' - how can you say that this is arbitrary? It is not arbitrary. 94 is not arbitrary. This is the age that Imogen Cunningham made her last Photograph before she died at age 96. And well you may say that this is not about Photography - no it is not, but this is about age and therefore the medium becomes irrelevant. …and, 'She's over 40 - still great! (Sofia Coppola). Well of course she is and this needs to be celebrated - not excluded as 'still …whatever' as if it were some kind of use-by date that you can impose on women.

    Maybe you need to write in this fashion so that what you are writing about will somehow be acceptable to the men you envisage may read this - and therefore tick off all your boxes as being acceptable. Women under 40 continue to be of interest to men because this is the age where they are still by that age remotely fecund. Women over 40 are somehow considered otherwise and therefore rendered dysfunctional - socially and therefore professionally, hence the reason why so many men and some women subconsciously use this age as a benchmark and then backpedal furiously or make off-hand remarks when they are shown their error. You betray yourself at each twist and turn.

  • GAIA | July 26, 2013 4:05 PM

    Jeez Jen Zal, give the kid a break - yes, he's a man, but what he "betrays" himself as at each twist and turn is an excellent goddamn feminist, if only there were more!

  • MHK | July 26, 2013 4:00 PM

    I think you're making an important point but you've made some unfair assumptions about me. There's ample evidence, including in this post, that my own attitudes to women and age are not analogous to prevailing patriarchal prejudices, and that I have a track record of engaging - in my journalism and my filmmaking - with the issues that you highlight.

    When I said Sofia Coppola was "still great" I meant despite not qualifying for the list, not despite being past 40!

    But enough about me. I appreciate that it can be frustrating to see yet another youth-focused article, but it doesn't mean that focus is unjustified. I have female peers who are made to feel that their perspective is not interesting, who are expected to wait their turn. Various young women have commented that they find this list inspiring, and that feeling is valid.

    And there are many instances of women being wildly acclaimed as filmmakers when they make their first feature aged 40 or over - for example, Claire Denis, Clio Barnard, Joanna Hogg.

    Maybe I made a mistake and I should have made a list of directors who have only released one or two features. That would have illustrated the point I was trying to make without invoking any age barriers. (If you think there shouldn't be lists like this at all, then I'm afraid we just disagree). But I still believe that the way I engage with age in this article is not, subconsciously or otherwise, pernicious.

  • Kathryn Browning | July 26, 2013 8:20 AMReply

    Phrases like "defining the lesbian experience," "narrating the intersex experience" and "subverting gender expectations," make me yawn. Women - and men for that matter - become great directors by getting out of their quirky little corner. Writers are told to write what they know, but directors should direct what they don't know. Expand their reach. It's the difference between Ang Lee and Spike Lee. It's why Kathryn Bigelow is so terrific, why Penny Marshall has become this wonderful producer/director. Yes, they direct films with strong women characters, but they didn't settle in to direct "the woman thing." Sorry, but several on this list are already heading down the wrong path.

  • vandalu | July 26, 2013 4:55 PM

    I like this comment, thanks.

  • Chloe | July 26, 2013 8:26 AM

    this comment makes me yawn

  • Can Do | July 26, 2013 2:44 AMReply

    By choosing to define these women by their age -- look at the title of the piece -- you are treating them in a sexist manner. You would never make a list of male directors as defined by their age. I would appreciate if the male writer of this piece would recognize his own sexism and change the title and listing ages of these talented artists. I appreciate he chose to give recognition to these talented artists but since women are most likely to be treated as washed up and useless by society after 40 to do that here seems pretty shameful.

  • Can Do | July 26, 2013 2:44 AMReply

    By choosing to define these women by their age -- look at the title of the piece -- you are treating them in a sexist manner. You would never make a list of male directors as defined by their age. I would appreciate if the male writer of this piece would recognize his own sexism and change the title and listing ages of these talented artists. I appreciate he chose to give recognition to these talented artists but since women are most likely to be treated as washed up and useless by society after 40 to do that here seems pretty shameful.

  • Can Do | July 26, 2013 2:43 AMReply

    By choosing to define these women by their age -- look at the title of the piece -- you are treating them in a sexist manner. You would never make a list of male directors as defined by their age. I would appreciate if the male writer of this piece would recognize his own sexism and change the title and listing ages of these talented artists. I appreciate he chose to give recognition to these talented artists but since women are most likely to be treated as washed up and useless by society after 40 to do that here seems pretty shameful.

  • Can Do | July 26, 2013 2:19 AMReply

    By choosing to define these women by their age -- look at the title of the piece -- you are treating them in a sexist manner. You would never make a list of male directors as defined by their age. I would appreciate if the male writer of this piece would recognize his own sexism and change the title and listing ages of these talented artists. I appreciate he chose to give recognition to these talented artists but since women are most likely to be treated as washed up and useless by society after 40 to do that here seems pretty shameful.

  • Sophie Smith | July 26, 2013 3:25 AM

    I can't decide if 'Can Do' (hiding there behind so positive an epithet) is a troll. If so, well, I've fallen for it. Claps to you!

    There is nothing sexist about this piece. Even if Matthew had not written the insightful columns he has on ageism in the industry, it would not be a sexist piece.

    Why? Well to start with, your empirical claim is just wrong. Lists of the 'best young x' abound. These tend, however, to be packed full of men, even if there are great women out there doing whatever 'x' is. You would never make a list of 'best young male directors' because all of the lists of 'best young directors' are (sexistly) packed full of men anyway. They don't need their own list! So having a list of 'best young women' is not sexist, it is corrective. It draws attention to the fact that there are plenty of amazing young women at the start of their careers doing amazing things and getting sidelined (another point Matthew has consistently made in this column). So many, in fact, that they can fill a top ten all of their own, and a comments section full of additions. You just wouldn't know that from looking at the way supposedly gender-neutral lists are compiled.

    Secondly, you are confusing issues of sexism and ageism. I agree with you: the way society treats middle-aged women is stifling and depressing. But the way the film industry treats young female directors is hampering and oppressive, too. The former does not invalidate the latter, nor make it a problem any less deserving of our concerted attention. We feminists can fight on both fronts, you know!

  • MHK | July 26, 2013 2:37 AM

    I've addressed ageism in the industry many times in this column, for example, the list of hit films starring women over 50. My article on editing focused on Valdis Oskarsdottir, aged 63, my article on cinematography on Ellen Kuras, aged 54. Etc etc.
    I tried to explain my rationale for focusing on younger directors in the introduction, and several times throughout the article -- the young female perspective is often dismissed unfairly, and many female directors find it takes a lot longer to break through. I wanted to show that it was possible, and since the most famous female directors (Campion, Bigelow, Coppola etc) are all over 40, I decided to impose an age limit to give a fresh, and hopefully inspiring, list of names. There is no sexism here.

  • Can Do | July 26, 2013 2:19 AMReply

    By choosing to define these women by their age -- look at the title of the piece -- you are treating them in a sexist manner. You would never make a list of male directors as defined by their age. I would appreciate if the male writer of this piece would recognize his own sexism and change the title and listing ages of these talented artists. I appreciate he chose to give recognition to these talented artists but since women are most likely to be treated as washed up and useless by society after 40 to do that here seems pretty shameful.

  • Can Do | July 26, 2013 2:18 AMReply

    By choosing to define these women by their age -- look at the title of the piece -- you are treating them in a sexist manner. You would never make a list of male directors as defined by their age. I would appreciate if the male writer of this piece would recognize his own sexism and change the title and listing ages of these talented artists. I appreciate he chose to give recognition to these talented artists but since women are most likely to be treated as washed up and useless by society after 40 to do that here seems pretty shameful.

  • Can Do | July 26, 2013 2:18 AMReply

    By choosing to define these women by their age -- look at the title of the piece -- you are treating them in a sexist manner. You would never make a list of male directors as defined by their age. I would appreciate if the male writer of this piece would recognize his own sexism and change the title and listing ages of these talented artists. I appreciate he chose to give recognition to these talented artists but since women are most likely to be treated as washed up and useless by society after 40 to do that here seems pretty shameful.

  • Can Do | July 26, 2013 2:18 AMReply

    By choosing to define these women by their age -- look at the title of the piece -- you are treating them in a sexist manner. You would never make a list of male directors as defined by their age. I would appreciate if the male writer of this piece would recognize his own sexism and change the title and listing ages of these talented artists. I appreciate he chose to give recognition to these talented artists but since women are most likely to be treated as washed up and useless by society after 40 to do that here seems pretty shameful.

  • Can Do | July 26, 2013 2:18 AMReply

    By choosing to define these women by their age -- look at the title of the piece -- you are treating them in a sexist manner. You would never make a list of male directors as defined by their age. I would appreciate if the male writer of this piece would recognize his own sexism and change the title and listing ages of these talented artists. I appreciate he chose to give recognition to these talented artists but since women are most likely to be treated as washed up and useless by society after 40 to do that here seems pretty shameful.

  • Can Do | July 26, 2013 2:18 AMReply

    By choosing to define these women by their age -- look at the title of the piece -- you are treating them in a sexist manner. You would never make a list of male directors as defined by their age. I would appreciate if the male writer of this piece would recognize his own sexism and change the title and listing ages of these talented artists. I appreciate he chose to give recognition to these talented artists but since women are most likely to be treated as washed up and useless by society after 40 to do that here seems pretty shameful.

  • Can Do | July 26, 2013 2:18 AMReply

    By choosing to define these women by their age -- look at the title of the piece -- you are treating them in a sexist manner. You would never make a list of male directors as defined by their age. I would appreciate if the male writer of this piece would recognize his own sexism and change the title and listing ages of these talented artists. I appreciate he chose to give recognition to these talented artists but since women are most likely to be treated as washed up and useless by society after 40 to do that here seems pretty shameful.

  • Can Do | July 26, 2013 2:17 AMReply

    By choosing to define these women by their age -- look at the title of the piece -- you are treating them in a sexist manner. You would never make a list of male directors as defined by their age. I would appreciate if the male writer of this piece would recognize his own sexism and change the title and listing ages of these talented artists. I appreciate he chose to give recognition to these talented artists but since women are most likely to be treated as washed up and useless by society after 40 to do that here seems pretty shameful.

  • Can Do | July 26, 2013 2:17 AMReply

    By choosing to define these women by their age -- look at the title of the piece -- you are treating them in a sexist manner. You would never make a list of male directors as defined by their age. I would appreciate if the male writer of this piece would recognize his own sexism and change the title and listing ages of these talented artists. I appreciate he chose to give recognition to these talented artists but since women are most likely to be treated as washed up and useless by society after 40 to do that here seems pretty shameful.

  • Can Do | July 26, 2013 2:17 AMReply

    By choosing to define these women by their age -- look at the title of the piece -- you are treating them in a sexist manner. You would never make a list of male directors as defined by their age. I would appreciate if the male writer of this piece would recognize his own sexism and change the title and listing ages of these talented artists. I appreciate he chose to give recognition to these talented artists but since women are most likely to be treated as washed up and useless by society after 40 to do that here seems pretty shameful.

  • msstone | July 25, 2013 11:12 PMReply

    Hats off to all the ladies!

  • ms.jjstone | July 25, 2013 11:11 PMReply

    The facts are wrong under Dee Rees. Dee Rees didn't direct "Blue Is the Warmest Color." That film was directed by Abdellatif Kechiche.

  • Grace | July 25, 2013 10:20 PMReply

    Graduated with mfa from NYU in early 90's - a few women graduated from a class originally of 35. The only women from my year and the years after me who got to make movies were either black or gay. It doesn't seem like ANYTHING has changed in America. Boys in backwards baseball caps were de riguer, and I can't say any of them got to make movies. Many men went up the production ladder: locations manager to eventually producer. My mother told me when I was 16 and said I wanted to be a film director, women don't direct movies, and I guess, like in most things, although I never listen, she was right.

  • lababarde | July 25, 2013 8:11 PMReply

    Keep an eye out for up and coming writer, director, producer Ileana D Vasquez. Expect great things from her!!

  • Kenneth | July 25, 2013 7:19 PMReply

    she shooting on super 8?

  • jeanrobie | July 25, 2013 7:07 PMReply

    You really need to take a look at Yesim Ustaogalu, a fantastic female director from Turkey.

  • gartiligio | July 25, 2013 6:49 PMReply

    Claudia Llosa!!!!!

  • kevin | July 25, 2013 6:27 PMReply

    amy seimetz should be number one!

  • Starla | July 25, 2013 6:11 PMReply

    Does anyone know where one can view "Stories We Tell"? I missed it at our SIFF screening. Any plans to release it to the general public?

  • mp | July 25, 2013 5:51 PMReply

    Uhhh . . . Julia Loktev; Song Fang (Memories Look at Me) Hilary Brougher ( Innocence - she might be just 40 or so . . ) Alice Winocour (Augustine) I mean you meant exciting, right?

  • Chris Conway | July 25, 2013 5:19 PMReply

    Wot no Bollywood?
    Reema Kagti, Zoya Akhtar - both 40

  • Chris Conway | July 25, 2013 5:21 PM

    Sorry for duplicated posts...
    Bleedin iPad ...

  • Chris Conway | July 25, 2013 5:18 PMReply

    Wot no Bollywood?
    Reema Kagti, Zoya Akhtar - both 40

  • Chris Conway | July 25, 2013 5:18 PMReply

    Wot no Bollywood?
    Reema Kagti, Zoya Akhtar - both 40

  • Chris Conway | July 25, 2013 5:18 PMReply

    Wot no Bollywood?
    Reema Kagti, Zoya Akhtar - both 40

  • Chris Conway | July 25, 2013 5:18 PMReply

    Wot no Bollywood?
    Reema Kagti, Zoya Akhtar - both 40

  • Chris Conway | July 25, 2013 5:15 PMReply

    Zola Akhtar, Reema Kagti

  • TREVOR | July 25, 2013 5:04 PMReply

    Leslye Headland and Megan Griffiths

  • Linda Garcia Merchant | July 25, 2013 4:11 PMReply

    Aurora Guerrero??????

  • Marian | July 25, 2013 3:54 PMReply

    And coming soon, I reckon: Ana Lily Amirpour.

  • Fernando Montero | July 25, 2013 3:40 PMReply

    I'm sure she finished 11th in the running but a shout out to Peruvian Claudia Llosa who is making interesting, challenging cinema.

  • James McAvoy | July 25, 2013 3:05 PMReply

    40 or under, y'all. It's explicit.

  • Dean Treadway | July 25, 2013 2:48 PMReply

    Definitely missing Kelly Reichardt, director of Meek's Cutoff, Wendy and Lucy, Old Joy and River of Grass.

  • MHK | July 25, 2013 2:52 PM

    She's over this list's arbitrary age limit -- same goes for Clio Barnard, Lucretia Martel etc etc

  • simon | July 25, 2013 2:42 PMReply

    yeah...amy seimetz should be here.

  • spassky | July 25, 2013 1:32 PMReply

    "And though it has meant facing ten times the criticism of say, Wes Anderson or Noah Baumbach, she has succeeded in proving herself, creatively speaking, as their equal."

    Loved the article, but I think it's ignorant to say that Anderson and Baumbach don't get shit for their limited worldviews featured in their films. Almost every conversation I have about either one of them (with both fans and critics) mentions this.

    And to say that Dunham is creatively on the same level as Anderson is quite silly.

  • MSV | July 26, 2013 3:37 PM

    She's definitely on the level of Baumbach (with regards to talent) and receives as much criticism despite being much more popular. Anderson doesn't get enough criticism (although he does seem to be loathed by pretty much everyone for the same reasons as the other two) or credit... but he's on another level (except for Darjeeling... as that was awful).

  • Grace | July 25, 2013 10:26 PM

    IMO she's brighter and more relevant than anything that Anderson has done since Bottle Rocket - and Owen Wilson was on the credits as writer. Wes Anderson is precious to say the least, really you gotta give credit where credit is due, and Lena Dunham is doing things with her talent that very few people, men or women, get the opportunity to do or have the grace to stay on the beam. Kudos to Lena - I say nerves of steel and guts. Anderson, not so much. Lucky guy.

  • MHK | July 25, 2013 1:51 PM

    Respectfully disagree -- to me the talent is comparable, and the level of criticism not.

  • jimi | July 25, 2013 1:03 PMReply

    wheres julia loktev?

  • MHK | July 25, 2013 1:53 PM

    DNQ

  • Victoria M. Johnson | July 25, 2013 12:51 PMReply

    Great list, EXCEPT, hello, you missed my favorite director, Sofia Coppola!!

  • MHK | July 25, 2013 12:53 PM

    She's over 40 - still great!

  • SaraCsit | July 25, 2013 12:18 PMReply

    Tiffany Shlain would be on my list. http://tiffanyshlain.com/
    TED speaker, filmmaker, founder of the Webby's. One of Newsweek's, 'Women Shaping the 21st Century", etc. Obviously, an oversight, right?

  • Alexandra Boyd | July 25, 2013 10:49 AMReply

    Glad to read that 39-40 is still considered young. I'm starting my film writing and directing career at the age of 50 after 30 years as a film and TV actress.... apparently I was standing on the wrong side of the camera for all those years. Feel like I'm starting at the beginning behind all the male 27 year old film school grads... wonder who has more hours clocked on a movie set? Answers on a postcard to... Please check out my work and let me know what you think.
    You'll need to Google and Facebook and look on Twitter for my name and company as this site thinks I might be spamming with links... The Wilderness Company
    Alexandra Boyd

  • zouyuze | November 13, 2013 5:10 AM

    I am interested in your project very much. May I help your project to
    show in China? We welcome you to shoot on Dali.We hope to
    invite you to chair the jury in Dali Film Festival.

  • zouyuze | November 13, 2013 5:10 AM

    I am interested in your project very much. May I help your project to
    show in China? We welcome you to shoot on Dali.We hope to
    invite you to chair the jury in Dali Film Festival.

  • zouyuze | November 13, 2013 5:10 AM

    I am interested in your project very much. May I help your project to
    show in China? We welcome you to shoot on Dali.We hope to
    invite you to chair the jury in Dali Film Festival.

  • Kenneth | July 25, 2013 7:20 PM

    Got any links Alexandra? Get going. You can clearly bring a lot to the party.
    Kenneth
    WOTR Ltd