The world of filmmaking is often considered a man’s world, and while countries like Canada are taking strong measures to promote women in film, female directors are often overlooked. But women have made significant contributions to the film industry since the early 1900s, when film was developed. Here are 8 amazing female directors who have changed the face of film forever.
- Alice Guy Blache
Born in 1873, Blache is often considered one of the greatest early filmmakers. Highly prolific, she made over 100 films between 1896 and 1920. Blache was also an incredibly experimental director. In particular, she helped invent early versions of sound and color filmmaking, which would later be used by other early filmmakers. She was also the one of the earliest directors to depict an interracial relationship in on film. Her first film may have even been the first narrative film in history.
- Maya Deren
Director of the classic film Meshes of the Afternoon, Maya Deren is a major figure in the history of American experimental film. A choreographer by trade, Deren created a body of work obsessed with movement and female isolation. Her extensive use of surreal imagery and black and white footage would later influence more mainstream filmmakers like David Lynch. She also pursued her passion in anthropology by writing a major work on Haitian religion. A talented innovator, Deren created a unique and self-expressive form of cinema.
- Agnes Varda
Varda is one of the most significant members of the French New-Wave film movement. Known for her use of non-professional actors and on-location shooting, she was one of the more naturalistic directors in the movement. After beginning her career in drama, she went on to become one of Europe’s most important documentary filmmakers. Her work strongly focused on films dealing with difficult social issues.
- Vera Chitalov
The Czech filmmaker Vera Chitalova is often considered the spiritual successor to Maya Deren. Known largely for her masterpiece Daisies, she was the master of a wild visually experimental form of filmmaking. Though her early career was hampered by the oppressive Czechoslovakian government, she later became a prolific writer on film theory. Even though her body of films is small and powerful, Chitalova was able to advance filmmaking as a whole.
- Athina Rachel-Tsangari
Tsangari represents one of the more interesting voices of a newer generation of powerful women directors. Her talent for writing drew her into the film industry; her first project was the production of Yorgos Lanthimos’ breakout hit Dogtooth. Not content with a behind-the-scenes life, she broke out on her own with her 2010 film Attenberg. Her film met great acclaim and even won a best actress prize from the Venice Film Festival. Tsangari also received acclaim at the Locarno Film Festival with her new film Chevalier last year and is presently working on a feminist action film. Tsangari is certainly an innovative filmmaker we should be keeping our eyes on.
- Kelly Reichard
Since the early 1990’s, Kelly Reichardt has been a director at the forefront of American film. Best known for her film Wendy and Lucy, Reichardt is passionate about addressing social issues with film. Her films have addressed issues ranging from homelessness, environmentalism, and the plight of women in the American frontier. Known for her films slow and thoughtful pacing, Reichardt is highly regard for the care she puts into character psychology in her works. She is truly one of the greatest, albeit most quiet, directors currently working in American film.
- Zoya Akhtar
A major feminist filmmaker in the Bollywood film industry, Akhtar uses her impressive films to satirize the clichés propagated by Bollywood films and deliver strong messages on women’s empowerment. Her films are also noted for their diverse casts, which can often be a rarity in Bollywood cinema. Her political commitment, coupled with her strong wit, has ensured her a place as one of the most critically well-regarded Indian filmmakers currently in the industry.
- Ana Lily Amirpour
The youngest filmmaker on this list, Amirpour deputed her first film at the Sundance Film Festival only in 2014. Her debut A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a striking black and white vampire western set in contemporary Iran. Amirpour has amazing talent at blending unconventional mixes of genres with striking visuals. And while it may be too early to predict her career success (her second release drops later this year) she is definitely an exciting young filmmaker who deserves your attention.
Are you a fan of any of these filmmakers? Comment your favorite film by a female director below!