Last year was one to forget for pretty much everyone on the planet. But there were some positives – such as the fact it proved to be a milestone year for female filmmakers. The Centre for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University revealed that 16 per cent of directors who worked on the 100 highest-grossing films of last year were women. That's up from 12 per cent in 2019 and 4 per cent in 2018.
Birds of Prey's Cathy Yan, Wonder Woman 1984's Patty Jenkins and Emma's Autumn de Wilde are only a few of the creatives to have altered the gender imbalance that has pervaded Hollywood for years. And there are more to look forward to.
Here are the names (and their films), to look out for this year.
Kay Cannon: 'Cinderella'
You might not have heard of US screenwriter Kay Cannon, but you'll almost certainly know her work. A writer on TV series 30 Rock and New Girl, she moved into films with the Pitch Perfect trilogy, before directing the 2018 hit comedy Blockers, starring John Cena and Leslie Mann. Cannon's latest seemingly brings together all of her sensibilities, as she has written and directed a musical romantic comedy take on Cinderella. The film stars Camila Cabello, Billy Porter, Idina Menzel, James Corden, John Mulaney, Minnie Driver and Pierce Brosnan.
Robin Wright: 'Land'
US actress Robin Wright's feature-length directorial debut has been a long time coming. Not only did she become a Hollywood treasure at the age of 21, thanks to her performance in The Princess Bride, but over the past few years she directed a short film, as well as 10 episodes of House of Cards, in which she stars. Land, in which Wright also stars, revolves around a woman who has to become comfortable with living again after a near-death experience in the wilderness. It will have its debut at the Sundance Film Festival this month.
Jane Campion: 'The Power of the Dog'
As New Zealander Jane Campion is one of only five women to be nominated for a Best Director Academy Award, any new film by her is met with huge anticipation. What's even more exciting about The Power of the Dog is that she has lined up such a formidable cast, because The Piano, Bright Star and In the Cut director always manages to eke out incredible performances from her actors. We'll get to see what Campion achieves with Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee, when the family drama hopefully hits Netflix towards the end of the year.
Jasmila Zbanic: 'Quo Vadis, Aida?'
Her film Grbavica achieved great success at the 2006 Berlin Film Festival, where it won the prestigious Golden Bear accolade, as well as the Ecumenical Jury and Peace Film prizes. Jasmila Zbanic's subsequent films, On the Path and For Those Who Can Tell No Tales, were also prime showcases for her ability to make uniquely captivating and emotional dramas. Quo Vadis, Aida?, the Bosnian director's first film in six years, might eclipse them all, as her depiction of a UN translator trying to save her family during the Srebrenica massacre immediately drew critical acclaim after its Venice and Toronto Film Festival screenings.
Melanie Laurent: 'The Nightingale'
Primarily recognised as the star of Inglourious Basterds, Beginners and 6 Underground, French actress Melanie Laurent has spent the past 12 years working on a variety of films as a director. These have included shorts, documentaries and award-winning features, which makes her adaptation of Second World War drama The Nightingale all the more intriguing, especially since it stars Dakota and Elle Fanning as sisters. The prolific Laurent is already shooting her follow-up, too, the thriller The Mad Woman's Ball, which she wrote and will also star in.
Chloe Zhao: 'Eternals'
There is an awful lot of buzz surrounding Chloe Zhao. Not only has her latest film, Nomadland, been touted as one of the front-runners for an Oscar, but her follow-up, Eternals, just so happens to be the latest $200 million instalment to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This underlines the versatility of the Chinese director, who is likely to bring a quiet majesty to Marvel while also imbuing the required spectacle and action with her unique vision.
Naomi Kawase: 'True Mothers'
Naomi Kawase was supposed to have a busy summer. But although her plans to oversee the official film for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics were delayed by a year, at least she could bask in the positive response to True Mothers after its Cannes Film Festival debut. The film revolves around two new parents who worry that the birth mother of their adopted 5-year-old wants her child back. Reviews suggest the drama is yet further proof that Japanese director Kawase, who rose to prominence as a documentarian, continues to get more confident and formidable as a narrative director.
Nia DaCosta: 'Candyman'
When Candyman's trailer hit audiences in February last year, they couldn't help but be excited by what US director Nia DaCosta was going to bring to the horror genre. Those who saw DaCosta's 2018 feature debut Little Woods (a crime thriller starring Tessa Thompson and Lily James) were already aware of the talents that helped land her the role of directing the latest iteration of Candyman. And it appears DaCosta has done a good job, as she has been hired to oversee Captain Marvel 2.
Cate Shortland: 'Black Widow'
Scarlett Johansson's farewell to the Marvel Cinematic Universe could not be in safer hands, as Australian writer and director Cate Shortland has spent the best part of 25 years honing her craft on everything from short films to television series, all while also overseeing the feature films Somersault, Lore and Berlin Syndrome. Each of these have thrived at film festivals, gaining recognition at Cannes, Stockholm and Sundance, respectively.
Haifaa Al Mansour: 'The Selection'
Saudi Arabian filmmaker Haifaa Al Mansour's debut feature film Wadjda, released in 2012, instantly established her as one of the most exciting and original voices in world cinema. This made it all the more frustrating that it took five years for her second film to arrive. Luckily for cinephiles, she quickly followed up 2017's Mary Shelley with Nappily Ever After for Netflix in 2018, and then the acclaimed drama The Perfect Candidate in 2019. In April last year, it was announced that Al Mansour would reunite with Netflix for The Selection, an adaptation of Kiera Cass's sci-fi romance novel, which she will undoubtedly inject with the style and heart that have defined her past films.