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In Darkness – Out Friday – Female Directors

14 March 2012

The 16th March sees the release of Agnieszka Holland’s Academy Award nominated film, In Darkness, which tells the true story of one man’s determination to shelter Lviv’s Jewish community from the encroaching Nazi troops.

Agnieszka Holland is a three time Academy Nominated director, many people will be familiar with Holland’s work in the form of the award-winning, cult series The Wire and more recently the US remake of The Killing.

With the calibre of Holland’s past directing work enabling her to stand amongst today’s finest male directors and to celebrate the release of In Darkness, we take a look at some of cinema’s finest female directors…

Ida Lupino

This British born actress was already a renowned star, appearing alongside some of the period’s finest actors; Humphrey Bogart & George Raft to name just a few, before stepping behind the camera in 1953, to helm the hard-boiled Film Noir, The Hitch-Hiker.

Bucking the trend as early as 1949, Lupino first took an interest in directing after stepping in to finish Elmer Clifton’s Not Wanted, after he unexpectedly took ill half-way through filming.  Becoming Hollywood’s only female director at the time, The Hitch-Hiker, tells the story of two men who pick up a psychotic hiker while on a fishing trip.  Based loosely on the crimes of Billy Cook, this stylish, tense and claustrophobic movie was also written by Lupino, and is considered to be one of the first Film Noirs ever to be directed by a woman.

Lynne Ramsay

Ramsay’s visually slow-burning kinetic style had already been well established with her 1999 feature film debut, Ratcatcher, but it was her award-winning 2011 film, We Need To Talk About Kevin, which really put her name on the map.  Based on Lionel Shriver’s novel of the same name, We Need to Talk About Kevin, focuses on the aftermath of a high school massacre and using flashbacks, shows a mother’s lack of love for the son that committed it.

Born in Glasgow in 1969, Ramsay studied at the National Film and Television School and although, has very few credits to her name, with each film Ramsey has garnered truly astonishing performances from all those under her direction, leading some to question Kevin’s and not to mention, Ramsey’s absence from this year’s Academy Awards nominations.  But with a resume like Ramsey’s, it could be argued that she is the directing world’s answer to John Cazale.

Kathryn Bigelow

From the beautiful horror of cowboy & western vampire flick Near Dark to the Academy Award winning direction of The Hurt Locker, Bigelow has been a force to be reckoned with in modern day cinema, since her 1982 feature film debut, The Loveless. 

Making her name with Near Dark, in which she utilised the bond between three of James Cameron’s Aliens cast, Bigelow proved she has an amazing eye for seeing exquisiteness in all things horrific and bringing the human story to the fore-front of the picture.

And let’s not forget Bigelow’s Point Break, starring the late Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves.  Notable for its stunts and action packed sequences, Point Break proved that it’s not only men who know how to direct thrilling, breath-taking scenes.  Becoming the first female to win the highly sought-after Academy Award Best Director for The Hurt Locker and with the Osama Bin Laden movie Zero Dark Thirty currently in production, Bigelow is definitely someone you should keep one eye out for all future projects and the other, on her past movies you should really have already seen (!)

Lone Scherfig

Born in Denmark, Scherfig is part of the Dogma 95 movement, made famous by Lars Von Trier and made her stamp within the movement with the wonderfully funny, Italian for Beginners.  Scherfig really came into the British conscious with the 2009 release of An Education.  Based on Lynne Barber’s memoir,  An Education tells the coming-of-age  tale of Jenny Mellor, a 16 year old living and experiencing life in 60s London.

Under the careful direction of Scherfig, the film really is evocative of the era in which it’s set.  Its keenly observed scenes, mixed with Scherfig’s light touch, allow you to become engrossed in the world the characters inhabit, creating an emotional bond with them.  After An Education Scherfig moved on to direct the Hollywood romance, One Day starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess.

Susanne Bier

Another Danish filmmaker, Bier’s touching 2004 film Brothers, was later remade by Jim Sheridan starring Natalie Portman with Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire, but it is with After the Wedding (2006) and In a Better World (2010) in which Bier is better known. 

Both nominated for Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film, with In a Better World finally claiming the accolade, both dramas are rich in story and deeply satisfying and with the imminent adaptation of the French film Rapt, Bier proves she’s moving on to bigger and better things.

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