25 new films by female directors you need to see

2017 is shaping up to be an exceptional year for women behind the camera.


Eve Watling

The relative lack of films directed by women in the 2017 Cannes line-up may not come as a huge surprise; the world’s most prestigious film festival has only ever awarded its top prize, the Palme d’Or, to one woman – Jane Campion for The Piano way back in 1993. Luckily, there’s a whole world of filmmaking outside of the male auteur-dominated festival circuit. From the return of Sofia Coppola to exciting newcomers such as Hope Dickson Leach, we’ve collected 25 upcoming works by female directors to look out for.

1. The Levelling

Directed by Hope Dickson Leach
Released 12 May, 2017

The 2014 Somerset floods act as metaphorically rich backdrop for a woman returning to her farming family after the death of her brother. This is Hope Dickson Leach’s debut feature following her acclaimed shorts The Dawn Chorus and Morning Echo.

2. Rough Night

Directed by Lucia Aniello
Released 16 June, 2017

Five old friends (played by Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer, and Zoë Kravitz) reunite after 10 years for a wild party – and accidentally kill a male stripper. It would take a very special director to make a comedy out of a plot revolving around a dead sex worker, but considering Lucia Aniello earned her comedy chops directing episodes of Broad City, it might just work.

3. Where Hands Touch

Directed Amma Asante
Released TBC

Okay, so we weren’t exactly blown away by Amma Asante’s last film, A United Kingdom, but we’re still confident that she is a director who can deliver the goods. Where Hands Touch, which is due this year, is based on one of the director’s own screenplays and depicts a romance between a mixed-race German girl and an SS Officer.

4. Dark River

Directed by Clio Barnard
Released TBC

Known for depicting forgotten northern communities with a deft intelligence, Barnard earned critical respect both for her 2010 experimental documentary The Arbor and her 2013 fiction feature The Selfish Giant. We have big hopes for Dark River, set on a Yorkshire farm as a woman reunites with her hostile brother after a 15-year absence.

5. On Body and Soul

Directed by Ildikó Enyedi
Released TBC

On Body and Soul marks the triumphant return of Hungarian director Ildikó Enyedi after years in the wilderness. It was the surprise winner of the 2017 Berlin Film Festival Golden Bear, telling of two people who conduct a strange relationship in the realm of their dreams.

6. The Beguiled

Directed by Sofia Coppola
Released 23 June, 2017

It would’ve been interesting to see what Sofia Coppola could make of a live-action Little Mermaid film, but when that fell through she returned with perhaps the most unexpected project imaginable: a remake of Don Siegel Civil War-era battle of the sexes drama, The Beguiled. It’ll be fascinating to see how her sharp perspective alters the original film’s delicately balanced – and provocative – gender politics.

7. Kings

Directed by Deniz Gamze Ergüven
Released TBC

Kings is a long time coming: Deniz Gamze Ergüven originally wanted to direct the film in 2011 but wasn’t able to get the funding. The Oscar-nominated success of her Turkish-language picture Mustang must have changed some minds, and Ergüven finally directs Halle Berry and Daniel Craig in this romantic drama set during the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

8. Bunch of Kunst

Directed by Christine Franz
Released 21 April, 2017

Jason Williamson worked in a Nottingham chicken factory before forming the Sleaford Mods, the minimalist punk-hop duo who rose to (relative) fame with impassioned songs about austerity-era Britain. Berlin-based music journalist Christine Franz follows the band as they tour the gloomy country that made them in her first feature-length film.

9. Casting JonBenet

Directed by Kitty Green
Released 28 April, 2017

Kitty Green used a casting call as a starting point for her 2015 short The Face of Ukraine: Casting Oksana Baiul. Here, she examines the unsolved murder of six-year-old beauty pageant queen JonBenét Ramsey, which still provokes media fascination over 20 years on. A casting call out for actors to play JonBenét and various other people involved in the case allows locals to explore their own theories and feelings around the murder.

10. Beach Rats

Directed by Eliza Hittman
Released TBC

Following her 2013 debut feature, It Felt Like Love, about a teenage girl’s sexual blossoming in Brooklyn, we were excited to see what director Eliza Hittman would do next. This new one played at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and was warmly received.

11. Detroit

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
Released 4 August, 2017

Judging by its electrifying first trailer, Detroit looks like a clean mix of Ava DuVernay’s Selma and John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13. The film is a multi-strand survey of the 1967 Detroit riot, with John Boyega starring as a cop enveloped in the mayhem. Released to coincide with the anniversary of the riot, 4 August can’t come quickly enough.

12. Wonder Woman

Directed by Patty Jenkins
Released 2 June, 2017

Maybe the one superhero movie we’re actually, genuinely looking forward to this year. A female director making a film about perhaps the quintessential female superhero is good news all round – let’s just hope Gal Gadot gets more room to breath than she did in the lamentable Batman V Superman, where her character was first introduced.

13. Euphoria

Directed by Lisa Langseth
Released TBC

Women drive the action on both sides of the lends in Euphoria. Alicia Vikander and Eva Green star as sisters travelling through Europe towards a mystery destination. It’s the first release from Vikander’s production company, Vikarious Productions, and is also Swedish director Lisa Langseth’s first English-language film.

14. Step

Directed by Amanda Lipitz
Released 4 August, 2017

Amanda Lipitz’s debut documentary feature follows three disadvantaged teenage dancers in Baltimore as they navigate the college entry process. It premiered at Sundance early this year where it was praised for its vital, joyful look at young black women in contemporary America.

15. Mary Shelley

Directed Haifaa al-Mansour
Released TBC

You’ll remember the Saudi Arabian director Haifaa Al-Mansour as the secretive maker of the charming rite of passage comedy, Wadjda. For her follow-up she’s teamed up with the always-interesting Elle Fanning to tell the story of one of gothic literature’s most potent voices, Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein.

16. The Dreamed Path

Directed by Angela Schanelec
Released TBC

One of the big talking points of the 2016 Locarno Film Festival, this latest from German director Angela Schanelec captures the experimental yet inclusive spirit of ’90s-era Jean-Luc Godard as it surveys the fractured romantic life of two couples at different ends (geographically and temporally) of Europe. Try and catch this challenging but emotionally satisfying tease whichever way you can.

17. Zama

Directed by Lucrecia Martel
Released TBC

Lucrecia Martel’s The Headless Woman remains one of the great films of the 2000s, so you’ll forgive us for barely being able to contain our excitement as this extraordinary director returns to the vanguard with a new feature. It’s based on the complex 1956 novel by Antonio Di Benedetto, about a self-hating diplomat questioning his sexual desires.

18. Everything Everything

Directed by Stella Meghie
Released 19 May, 2017

The latest young-adult novel adaption to hit our screens, Everything Everything follows a sickly housebound teen as she starts a texting romance with a handsome new neighbour. Don’t expect many shockers from this cute love story, but Stella Meghie impressed with her 2016 debut Jean of the Joneses, so we’re keeping an open mind.

19. Risk

Directed by Laura Poitras
Released TBC

When Risk debuted in 2016, our initial reaction was that it rather skirted around the darker aspects of its subject, the Wikileaks founder and current fugitive Julian Assange. Poitras kept the cameras rolling after the screening and captured the subsequent drama surrounding Hillary Clinton’s emails, which were released by WikiLeaks and possibly cost Clinton the election. A new trailer for the updated and re-cut Risk hints at a far more critical portrait of Assange from the Oscar-winning director.

20. Son of Sofia

Directed by Elina Psykou
Released TBC

Greek director Psykou’s debut The Eternal Return of Antonis Paraskevas drew mixed praise from critics for its depiction of a TV host’s mental collapse alongside Greece’s financial disaster. Her follow-up continues the themes of pan-European political trouble in a magical-realist tale of a young Russian boy following his mother to Athens to meet his new stepfather.

21. Berlin Syndrome

Directed by Cate Shortland
Released 12 May, 2017

This Australian director returns with her second feature set in Germany, about a young woman whose romance with a young scholar takes a turn for the highly distressing. Early word on Cate Shortland’s Euro-thriller is positive – particular the stellar central turn by Teresa Palmer.

22. Heal the Living

Directed by Katell Quillévéré
Released 28 April, 2017

We can already chalk this up as one of the great French films of 2017, so make sure it’s on your radar. Katell Quillévéré’s third feature as director is a drama in which the central character is a human heart. We follow its thrilling and precarious journey from the chest of a teenager killed in in a car accident to chest of a older woman wanting to upgrade her own dodgy ticker.

23. You Were Never Really Here

Directed by Lynne Ramsay
Released TBC

Following the fiasco surrounding Jane Got a Gun, which saw Lynne Ramsay leave the project acrimoniously in 2013, the acclaimed Scottish filmmaker is back with this Jonathan Ames adaption. She’s bringing Joaquin Phoenix with her, playing a veteran who makes an ill-fated attempt to rescue a young girl from a sex ring.

24. Their Finest

Directed by Lone Scherfig
Released 21 April, 2017

Even though this film is being sold hard as comedy, it works far better as a wartime melodrama looking at the indelible nature of the filmed image. Top turns by Gemma Arterton and Bill Nighy power Lone Scherfig’s latest about the importance of cinema during World War Two, in beating the Bosch and as a way to keep the home fires burning.

25. By the Time it Gets Dark

Directed by Anocha Suwichakornpong
Released 16 June 2017

Anocha Suwichakornpong is a leading light in contemporary Thai indie cinema, whose last feature, 2009’s Mundane History, won the Tiger Award at the 2010 International Film Festival Rotterdam. This follow up begins with a fictional filmmaker struggling to portray a student uprising, and continues on into an expansive and imaginative exploration of class, history and spirituality in modern Thailand.

Published 14 Apr 2017

Tags: Amanda Lipitz Amma Asante Angela Schanelec Anocha Suwichakornpong Cate Shortland Christine Franz Clio Barnard Deniz Gamze Ergüven Elina Psykou Eliza Hittman Haifaa Al Mansour Hope Dickson Leach Ildikó Enyedi Katell Quillévéré Kathryn Bigelow Kitty Green Laura Poitras Lisa Langseth Lone Scherfig Lucrecia Martel Lynne Ramsay Patty Jenkins Sofia Coppola Stella Meghie

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