IndieWire’s annual tradition of rounding up emerging female directors continues with a batch of 20 filmmakers that span the globe, from the United States to Lebanon, France, Zambia, and more. From festival breakouts at Sundance and Tribeca to women leading the charge in the studio system, here are 20 rising female directors to know about in 2018.
Click through the gallery to view the list, and head here for our 2017 list.
After handling screenplay duties on three “Pitch Perfect” movies, Kay Cannon finally made the leap to director with “Blockers,” which is one of the year’s best-reviewed comedies. Critics praised Cannon for giving the male-dominated sex comedy subgenre a much needed feminist voice. Backed by Universal Pictures, the film makes Cannon one of only three women with studio releases in 2018.
After directing a handful of short films since 2005, Christina Choe brought her feature directorial debut “Nancy,” starring Andrea Riseborough, to Sundance earlier this year and gained some pretty enthusiastic admirers (read IndieWire’s rave review here). Choe also made her TV directing debut this summer on an episode of “Queen Sugar.”
It took Sara Colangelo four years to follow up her 2014 directorial debut “Little Accidents,” but the wait was well worth it. The director’s adaptation of “The Kindergarten Teacher,” starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, earned rave reviews out of Sundance and landed a lucrative deal with Netflix for distribution.
Josephine Decker had a pair of indies (“Butter on the Latch,” “Thou Wast Mild and Lovely”) that made her a director to watch in 2014, but 2018 will go down as her breakthrough year, thanks to her critically beloved “Madeline’s Madeline.” IndieWire’s A review hails the film as a masterpiece and one of the freshest and most exciting films of the 21st century.
Nia DaCosta won the Nora Ephron Award at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year for her feature directorial debut “Little Woods,” starring Tessa Thompson and Lily James.
French filmmaker Coralie Fargeat is one of the year’s breakthrough horror talents thanks to the release of her acclaimed “Revenge.” Taking on the controversial rape-revenge genre and giving it an uncensored feminist edge, Fargeat earned fans for crafting an exploitation film for the #MeToo era.
Major nationwide releases directed by women are still few and far between in 2018, which makes Susanna Fogel one to watch as she’s behind the Mila Kunis/Kate McKinnon action comedy “The Spy Who Dumped Me.” Lionsgate is hoping the film turns into a late summer comedy hit (it opens August 3), which means Fogel could be joining Cannon as a major new female voice in comedy.
Jennifer Fox has been making documentary films since the late 1980s, but her career got a major breakthrough earlier this year when “The Tale,” her narrative feature directorial debut, became the sensation of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. The film sold to HBO and is expected to be a fonrtrunner for multiple Emmys later this year.
Getting your feature directorial debut picked up by A24 out of the Sundance Film Festival is a pretty great barometer for success, and such was the case with Augustine Frizzell earlier this year. The Texas-born director’s “Never Goin’ Back” has drawn favorable comparisons to “Spring Breakers” and opens in select theaters in August.
Karen Gillan needs no introduction thanks to her roles in “Dr. Who” and the “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise, but 2018 will go down as the year the actress made a successful leap behind the camera. Gillan’s feature directorial debut “The Party’s Just Beginning” was a favorite at Tribeca and promises big things for Gillan’s directing future.
“Capernaum” is Nadine Labaki’s third feature, but it’s the one that turned her into a star on the international film circuit. The movie premiered to a massive standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival and won the Jury Prize. With backing from Sony Pictures Classics, expect Labaki to make an impact on awards season later this year.
Jennifer Yuh Nelson has already made history as the first woman to solely direct an animated feature from a major Hollywood studio (“Kung Fu Panda 2”), and now she moves into the live-action space with YA adaptation “The Greatest Minds.” The film is backed by 20th Century Fox, which makes Nelson one of only three female directors with studio releases in 2018.
Victoria Mahoney’s debut feature “Yelling to the Sky” premiered in 2011, but her work over the last year on television series “Queen Sugar” and “Seven Seconds” has given her a bigger platform to show her skills. Fortunately, enough people are noticing. Mahoney was announced as the second unit director for “Star Wars: Episode IX” under J.J. Abrams, making her the franchise’s first African-American woman to hold a directing title.
Olivia Milch will look back at summer 2018 as the season her career hit its breakthrough. In addition to co-writing “Ocean’s 8” with Gary Ross, Milch’s directorial debut “Dude” premiered on Netflix. While we wait to see what Milch directs next, she’s already got a script lined up for Ridley Scott’s “Queen & Country.”
Zambian-Welsh director Rungano Nyoni has been a fixture on the film festival circuit for much of 2017 and 2018 thanks to her acclaimed directorial debut “I Am Not A Witch.” The drama first debuted at Cannes Directors’ Fortnight in 2017 and most recently won admirers at Sundance earlier this year. At the 2018 BAFTAs in February, the film won Nyoni the prize for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer.
Madeleine Olnek is emerging as one of the most exciting directors in queer cinema. Five years after directing the cult favorite “The Foxy Merkins,” Olnek returned with her most assured feature yet, “Wild Nights With Emily.” Starring Molly Shannon, the film turns a brief chapter of Emily Dickinson’s life into the best lesbian comedy in years.
Getting Margot Robbie and Saorise Ronan to lead your feature directorial debut is not a bad way to ensure you get noticed, and such is the case with “Mary Queen of Scots” filmmaker Josie Rourke. The British artist has spent years directing plays at the Donmar Warehouse theatre in London, and her jump to film is expected to be a success thanks to its star power and an awards-friendly December release date from Focus Features.
After spending years directing episodes for some of your favorite comedy series, from “GLOW” to “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “Modern Family,” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” Claire Scanlon makes the jump to feature filmmaker this month with Netflix’s winning romantic-comedy “Set It Up,” starring Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell.
Anyone who saw Sandi Tan’s directorial debut “Shirkers” at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year could not stop raving about it. The movie blends feature and documentary styles to tell the story of Tan’s journey to find an old mentor who stole 16mm footage of a movie they were making together in 1992. The footage reappears years later, sending Tan on a memory-infused odyssey into her past.
Cathy Yan’s Sundance-winning drama “Dead Pigs” made a fan out of Margot Robbie, who recruited the director to pitch an idea to Warner Bros. for a Harley Quinn-centric “Birds of Prey” movie. The pitch impressed the studio, and now Yan is joining the likes of Patty Jenkins and Ava DuVernay on the growing list of female directors tackling a superhero tentpole.