film reels surrounding words “brilliant female directors” with a film reel and a director’s chair underneath

5 Brilliant Female Film Directors

Diamond Marie Pedroza
Web Content Contributor

On Feb. 28, 2021, Chinese director, Chloé Zhao, won a Golden Globe award for directing her film, “Nomadland.” She became the second woman, and first woman of color to win a Golden Globe award for directing.

Zhao’s win opened up an important discussion of an issue surrounding race and representation in film directing that has been circling for the past few years. Though more women have been directing films, women of color are still not directing nearly as many films as white women.

Here are my top 5 female film directors whose careers have lasted for over a decade:

Céline Sciamma

Céline Sciamma is a French director. She is queer and most of her films tackle issues surrounding gender and sexual orientation. After directing her first film, “Water Lilies,” in 2007, her career as a director has grown immensely.

She recently won the Queer Palm Award from Cannes Film Festival for her 2019 film, “Portrait of a Lady on Fire.” Other prominent works from Sciamma include, “Tomboy,” and “Girlhood.”

Lois Weber

Lois Weber was an American silent film director. She is famous for being the first woman to direct an American feature film, which was “The Merchant of Venice” in 1914.

Commonly working with Universal, Weber was for a short while “the highest-paid director in Hollywood,” according to Columbia Universities Women Film Pioneers Project. She was ahead of her time, and commonly highlighted taboo subjects surrounding social issues, and even drug use.

Sofia Coppola

Sofia Coppola is the daughter of Frances Ford Coppola, who is most famous for directing “The Godfather.” She joined in her talented family’s footsteps by becoming a director as well.

Since the 90s, she has established her own skills in directing works like, “The Virgin Suicides,” “Lost in Translation,” and “Marie Antoinette.” She won the best director award at Cannes for “The Beguiled.”

Agnès Varda

As a feminist, Agnès Varda broke barriers of how women were portrayed on screen, such as in her film, “One Sings, the Other Doesn’t,” which tackles the issue of abortion. She was also a vibrant woman, who emersed herself into the world of art and fashion.

Varda directed films up until the final years of her life. In total, she directed around 40 films, including short films. My favorite Varda film is “Cléo from 5 to 7.” Other prominent works by Varda include “Vagabond” and “Faces Places.”

Alice Guy-Blaché

Alice Guy-Blaché was a French director, who worked during the silent film era. Directing in the late 1890s, Guy-Blaché “was probably the only woman film director in the world.”

Guy-Blaché is also credited as being one of the first, if not the first, director to have an all-African American cast in her 1912 film, “A Fool and His Money.” Recently, Jodie Foster narrated a documentary feature about Guy-Blaché’s life called, “Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché.”

Though there aren’t many women who have had long careers directing films, more women are beginning to direct films. Perhaps, this is because more women are getting the opportunities to do so, and a larger body of female film directors are slowly including women of color in their ranks.

Here are some up-and-coming female directors of color you should pay attention to:

Cathy Yan “Birds of Prey”
Regina King “One Night in Miami”
Ana Lily Amirpour “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”
Lulu Wang “The Farewell”
Deniz Gamze Ergüven “Mustang”

Featured Image by Diamond Marie Pedroza

One thought on “5 Brilliant Female Film Directors

  1. Really informative. Often we focus so much on those performing and miss entirely those who direct the performers up to their personal best creating the magical moments that tell the stories we love (and some we may not love…but those that stick with us …leading us to think about them long after the film is over).

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