Movies

The Rising Female Directors Ready To Own Our Screens In 2022

Hollywood is not an artistic utopia where all creative visionaries are welcomed as equal. It’s a profit-hungry machine, one that runs on conventional storytelling from a mostly male cadre of tried and true directors churning out franchise behemoths and superhero sagas to appease the entertainment-craving masses. And yet, women are finding a way to get their stories made. They have been for decades, confronting the comfort of oft-repeated formulas — in front of and behind the camera — that normally sideline female storytellers and their singular insight, pushing back against stereotypes and forcing the powers that be to take notice.

Despite some disheartening industry reports that detail how the percentage of female directors involved in top-grossing films fell in 2021, there’s a crop of veteran filmmakers and up-and-coming talent breaking down gates that have been kept closed to them for too long. Some have years of experience behind the camera, quietly disrupting the status quo with beloved rom-com classics while some are just dipping their toes into original storytelling. The one thing they all have in common? They’re all on the rise, readying to have their names dominating the conversation this year and forging a new path for the female directors that follow. These women are crafting fresh and inventive stories within the genre spaces fans have come to love, helming Star Wars spinoffs and Marvel series. They’re also trudging familiar treks, turning out indie darlings and award-winning miniseries that prove original storytelling isn’t dead — it’s just waiting for the right director to bring it to life on-screen.

In 2022, these women are poised to go mainstream in an exciting way, delivering long-awaited TV shows and buzzworthy awards fare that Hollywood can’t help but take notice of. Here’s a handful of female directors to keep on your radar this year and beyond.

Candyman-Nia-Dacosta
Universal

Nia DaCosta

Past Work: Little Woods, Candyman
Up Next: The Marvels

An acolyte of auteurs like Martin Scorcese and Francis Ford Coppola, Nia DaCosta’s filmography is littered with the kind of gritty, thrilling crime dramas that her predecessors are known for. What makes DaCosta different is her subject matter, and the emotional sensitivity she brings to stories that feel both universal and impressively singular.

Her first feature, the Sundance breakout Little Woods, centered on two estranged sisters, living in poverty and determined to earn a better life for themselves – by whatever means necessary. With subtly brilliant performances from Tessa Thompson and Lily James, DaCosta’s directorial debut touched on everything from women’s reproductive rights to the oppressive nature of poverty to toxic masculinity and more. When Jordan Peele tapped her to direct Candyman, a spiritual sequel to the iconic Black horror franchise, she incorporated timely themes – like gentrification, artistic gatekeeping, and America’s refusal to reckon with its racist past (and present). She’s pushing some of those social issues even further forward when she helms The Marvels, the sequel to Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel, that features the studio’s first female Pakistani lead superhero, Kamala Khan — a film that feels destined to continue her growing legacy on screen as she weaves in more serious subject matter into genre and superhero fare.

Gina Prince Bythewood
Netflix

Gina Prince-Bythewood

Past Work: Love & Basketball, Beyond The Lights, The Old Guard
Up Next: The Woman King

Gina Prince-Bythewood’s seminal romantic comedy Love & Basketball defined the genre in the early aughts. Starring Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps, the love story follows a pair of talented basketball players as their friendship morphs into something more over the course of a decade. The film not only gave audiences an authentic look at the trials and pitfalls of young love, but it also sported a female lead that happened to be a confident, capable Black woman breaking ground in a predominately male sport. What other early 2000s rom-com can say that?

What makes Prince-Bythewood’s filmography so impressive is her range. She adapted the bestselling novel The Secret Life of Bees, a story about the unflinching resilience of Black women and the enduring bonds of sisterhood, before creating the pop music-infused romantic drama Beyond The Lights. She switched genres again in 2020, becoming the first biracial woman to direct a comic book property with Netflix’s adrenaline-packed action-adventure The Old Guardearning praise for crafting elaborate fight sequences and globe-trotting, fantasy-tinged storylines that played to star Charlize Theron’s strengths. Next, Prince-Bythewood is producing a sequel to the film and helming the highly-anticipated drama, The Woman King. Based on true events, the historical epic stars Viola Davis as the general of an all-female military unit in the Kingdom of Dahomey, an 18th-century African state whose Amazonian soldiers fought off French invaders.

Karen Maine
Vertical

Karen Maine

Past Work: Yes God Yes
Up Next: Rosaline

Karen Maine co-wrote the Jenny Slate-starring dark comedy, Obvious Child – a messy tale of a quick hookup gone wrong that manages to mine humor from failed relationships, unfulfilling careers, and abortion. So really, it shouldn’t be surprising that her directorial debut was the hormonally-charged teenage comedy, Yes God Yes. Starring Stranger Things’ Natalie Dyer, the film harnesses Maine’s dark comedic leanings to tell the story of a sexually-repressed Catholic schoolgirl who uses a spiritual retreat to explore her own carnal desires. It’s raunchy and bold. But it’s also incredibly sweet at times – a hard balance to strike but one Maine seems to handle with ease. She’s building up her romantic comedy street cred with a revisionist take on the Shakespearean tragedy, Romeo + Juliet, but instead of focusing on the titular lovers of fair Verona, Maine’s more interested in the scorned Rosaline and her attempts to break up the doomed couple.

Maria Schrader
Netflix

Maria Schrader

Past Work: Unorthodox, I’m Your Man
Up Next: She Said

Maria Shrader’s devastating limited series Unorthodox is a difficult binge on Netflix, but a worthwhile one all the same. It tells the story of a young, ultra-Orthodox Jewish woman who flees her strict, religious upbringing following an arranged marriage. The subject matter is dark at times and the performance from star Shira Hass is haunting, but Schrader brings an integral lens through which she conveys a different perspective on female empowerment and spirituality. Her feature debut, I’m Your Man, is equally poignant with Dan Stevens playing a humanoid robot learning to be… well, human, for the first time. Soon, she’ll be tackling even more serious fare, heading up She Said, an interpretation of the groundbreaking investigation by New York Times reporters Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor into the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the feminist movement it sparked.

Deborah-Chow-Mandalorian
Disney+

Deborah Chow

Past Work: The Mandalorian, American Gods
Up Next: Obi-Wan Kenobi

Not only is Canadian filmmaker Deborah Chow the first woman and first person of Asian descent to direct a live-action Star Wars project with The Mandalorian – but she’s also the creative genius who gave us the iconic Werner Herzog delivery “I would like to see the baby,” in the show’s third episode. Chow got her start directing shorts and the critically well-received indie drama The High Cost of Living, but it’s through the Star Wars universe that she’s been able to pay homage to her Chinese father’s love of Hong Kong action films. Her climactic action sequence in the show’s first season is a tense, Yojimbo-like standoff between a group of Mandalorians and the bounty hunters that proves she’ll bring a visionary inventiveness to her next space epic, the highly-anticipated Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Meera Menon
Tribeca

Meera Menon

Past Work: Farah Goes Bang, For All Mankind, The Magicians
Up Next: Ms. Marvel

A student of storytellers like Mira Nair, Lynne Ramsay, and Sofia Coppola, Meera Menon is an Indian-American director unafraid to challenge the perceived limits of her artistic capabilities by wading into multiple genres and juggling thought-provoking themes from her spot behind the lens. Her first feature, Farah Goes Bang, is a wild mix between a road-trip buddy comedy flick and a sexually-charged coming of age narrative with political undertones. And her work on shows as varied as Syfy’s The Magicians and Apple TV+’s space drama For All Mankind prove she’s confident in every timeframe and every alternate universe contained within the bounds of cinema. It’s a good thing too because next up is Ms. Marvel, the Disney+ miniseries promising us a long-awaited introduction to Marvel’s first Muslim superheroine, Kamala Khan.

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