cropped images of all the films I include in the article with the text “female directors” on top

Fantastic Woman Directors You Should Check Out

By Andrea Mau
Web Content Contributor

screenshot from Monsoon Wedding depicting the family of the film posing for a picture
A scene from “Monsoon Wedding.” Screenshot by Andrea Mau via Mira Nair.

Mira Nair is an incredibly accomplished Indian director, and runs her own film company, Mirabai Films. Her films are famous for appealing to a global audience while also highlighting aspects of Indian culture, combining the traditions of her culture with the complexities of emotions within families. Nair also specializes in documentaries with “Salaam Bombay!” one of her most notable and highly praised. Nair’s accomplishments are bottomless with a string of nominations and wins from numerous film festivals, and it’s not hard to see why.  

Nair’s most well known film, “Monsoon Wedding,” satisfies the both conventional warm-hearted family drama, while also containing real substance by covering controversial topics including sexual molestation, cheating and arranged marriage. The film is packed with dazzling imagery too, drawing inspiration from cultural traditions with bright, warm-toned colors and goosebump-raising music. However what is most impactful about “Monsoon Wedding” is its universal sentiment centered on family, whether they’re blood or chosen. 

Mira Nair’s “Monsoon Wedding,” “Salaam Bombay!,” “Queen of Katwe” and other films are available on Amazon Prime. 

screenshot of the title screen from Liz and the Blue Bird
A scene from “Liz and the Blue Bird.” Screenshot by Andrea Mau via Naoko Yamada.

If you’re more interested in animation, Naoko Yamada is your woman. Yamada is a director of animation in Japan known for her bittersweet storylines and fluid animation style. Before directing her own films, Yamada worked on many influential animes such as “Inyuasha” and “Clannad.” This experience undoubtedly aided her in her own films, with tearjerker “A Silent Voice” her most well known. However, my favorite film of hers has to be “Liz and the Blue Bird.”

“Liz and The Blue Bird” seems simple enough at first. Two best friends’ relationship comes to a crossroads as they both prepare to enter college, and along that storyline there is a parallel tale connected to the music they’re playing in their high school band. The two stories interact and highlight certain aspects of the girls’ relationship while also creating more questions about the roles they play in their friendship as it further progresses. 

The result is an end you won’t quite expect, but it is still guaranteed to tug on the heartstrings. “A Silent Voice” and “Liz and the Blue Bird” are available on Amazon Prime.

screenshot of a scene from Nighthawk with a badger driving a car
A scene from “Nighthawk.” Screenshot by Andrea Mau via Špela Čadež.

However, not everyone has time to watch a full-length animated film. In that case, Špela Čadež is the director to check out. Čadež is from Slovenia and is most known for her surrealist shorts including “Nighthawk” and “Boles.” Čadež has an edgy style which contributes to the dark themes covered in her shorts.  

“Nighthawk” stuck out particularly as one of the strangest shorts I’ve ever watched. The gritty animation, dark style, and nonsensical plot of a badger driving a car all add to the trippy elements of the short. Yet the badger himself is eerily reminiscent of a darker and actually quite common issue.

Čadež’s shorts are something you’ll never forget, and the majority are free to watch on Vimeo. 

screenshot from Losing Ground depicting Victor (played by Bill Gunn) and Sara (played by Seret Scott)
A scene from “Losing Ground.” Screenshot by Andrea Mau via Kathleen Collins.

“Losing Ground” directed by Kathleen Collins was not discovered until 30 years after it was filmed in 1982. A bit of that had to do with Collins’ untimely death at 45 and the racism at the time which prevented a black woman like Collins (directing a mostly black cast) from being successful. However in 2005 the hidden gem was finally fully restored onto DVD, which is now the only way to watch the film besides special streaming and screenings. Since its discovery “Losing Ground” has wowed audiences, including myself. 

“Losing Ground” stars Secret Scott as Sara, and Bill Gunn as her husband, Victor. Sara is an academic professor while Victor is an accomplished artist. This causes a discourse between them when their opposite natures pull Victor to a remote area where Sara finds it difficult to thrive. The result is a series of complicated affairs which slowly break Sara down. 

Collins wrote many things in her lifetime, but only one completed film has risen out of it. Collins is not just a reflection of great film, but also of how greatness is oppressed in the film industry by racism. The innovations of Collins’ film mean it deserved a proper release and for Collins to see her own impact, but alas the film was way ahead of its time. 

Featured image via Andrea Mau.

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