Wonder Women: Female Directors To Watch in 2017

Kim Taylor-Foster
TV Movies
TV Movies

2017 is shaping up to be a great year for women directors. Not only do more women seem to be stepping behind the lens, but female directors are increasingly popping up in male-dominated territory. This includes superhero movies, television shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, and horror films. With DC’s Wonder Woman one of the most high-profile and hotly anticipated movies of the year due out in June, we take a look at some of the year’s most exciting prospects.

Patty Jenkins

Thank goodness the big-screen version of Wonder Woman has been assigned to a woman director.

There’s been some debate over whether the forthcoming incarnation of DC Comics’ scantily clad superheroine will actually be the feminist icon she’s purported to be. But at least with a woman at the helm there’s a fighting chance she’ll be translated to the screen through a woman’s gaze and a modern lens, increasing the odds that she’ll be depicted as something that overrides a one-dimensional sex symbol rendering.

Having first appeared in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in 2016, the Wonder Woman we’ll see in this solo outing will feature in her own origin story set during World War I.

Jenkins’s first feature was Monster in 2003, in which Charlize Theron played real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos. She’s also directed episodes of Arrested Development, Entourage and The Killing.

Michelle MacLaren

The Deuce James Franco

Originally on board to direct Wonder Woman, experienced TV director MacLaren has helmed episodes of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul as well as Westworld, The Walking Dead and The X Files.

This year, new HBO show The Deuce premieres, with MacLaren on board as executive producer on the pilot and director of a couple of the episodes. And it looks impressive. Set in New York in the 1970s, the story revolves around the legalisation of pornography, its subsequent rise, and the problems that sprung up around it. It stars James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

MacLaren has also signed up to direct a film version of WWII drama The Nightingale, based on the novel by Kristin Hannah. We’re not sure when the film will see the light of day, but the project sounds interesting – and a very different prospect to Wonder Woman. It will be good to see what MacLaren can do with a couple of contrasting literary heroines, in the shape of the book’s two main protagonists Isabelle and Vianne.

Jennifer Lynch

Jennifer Lynch is always one to keep an eye on. Since her horribly received debut in Boxing Helena, the daughter of film icon David Lynch has gone on to become something of a cult figure in her own right.

She tackles uncomfortable subject matter, whether it’s a sexually aggressive, independent and unlikable female protagonist such as Sherilyn Fenn’s titular Helena (and her subsequent dismemberment) or unhinged killers in Surveillance. Her 2012 film Chained was equally unflinching in its approach to the story of a disturbed kidnapper and the effects of captivity on a young boy.

Lynch is a provocateur who shines her spotlight on the abject. It’s little surprise that she’s also directed episodes of The Walking Dead and American Horror Story, but she’s also helmed multiple episodes of Finding Carter and Teen Wolf.

Having turned her attentions in 2017 to directing episodes of Salem, she also has a horror film called Hellfest in production as well as the enticing A Fall From Grace, which is set to feature daddy David Lynch himself in a starring role. We can’t wait to see it.

Lucia Aniello

Having cut her teeth as a television director (taking the reins on comedy show Broad City), Lucia Aniello makes her directorial debut this year on a full-length feature in Rock That Body.

Set for a June release, Rock That Body is a female-driven comedy, which Aniello also wrote alongside Broad City actor Paul W. Downs.

It’s about a hen party that goes awry when the male stripper winds up dead, and stars Scarlett Johannson, Zoë Kravitz, Demi Moore and Kate McKinnon. We’re hopeful that it’s a comedy that will break the mould in a similar way to the Kristin Wiig/Annie Mumolo-scripted Bridesmaids.

Reed Morano

A seasoned cinematographer, Reed Morano directed her first feature in 2015, Meadowland, starring Olivia Wilde and Luke Wilson.

Currently working on a handful of episodes of eagerly awaited TV series The Handmaid’s Tale, she also has a couple of films on her agenda. First up is war drama Lioness, about a US Marine sent to Afghanistan to work with Afghan women and gather intelligence. Starring Ellen Page, it tells the true story of Lance Corporal Leslie Martz, who headed up the first Female Engagement Team in Afghanistan. Following that, I Think We’re Alone Now, an apocalyptic drama starring Elle Fanning and Peter Dinklage, looks intriguing.

Dee Rees

Mudbound Garrett Hedlund

Dee Rees is perhaps best known as the writer and director of TV biopic Bessie, for which Queen Latifah won a best actress Golden Globe for her portrayal of legendary blues singer Bessie Smith.

Rees is now making waves with Mudbound, her latest drama – an adaptation of Hillary Jordan’s novel about two returning WWII soldiers forced to deal with racism as they struggle to adapt to life after war. It premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and is already being talked about as a potential Oscar contender in 2018.

Anna Biller

Anna Biller’s films pay tribute to a bygone age of cinema – the Technicolour films of the 1960s and 1970s. Her previous features include 2001’s The Hypnotist and 2007’s Viva.

Biller’s latest, The Love Witch, was screened at festivals around the world throughout 2016 and gets a UK release on March 10.

The film’s plot centres on a practicing witch who gets guys to fall in love with her through enchanting them with spells and magic. Camp and evocative with an independent voice, it looks a lot of fun.

Alice Lowe

Über-talent Alice Lowe brings her directorial debut Prevenge to UK cinemas from February 10. Lowe, whose background includes writing black comedy Sightseers for director Ben Wheatley and roles in Inside No. 9, Crackanory and This Is Jinsy alongside a host of other acclaimed TV series, has also written the screenplay.

Prevenge is a comedy-drama with horror overtones about a woman driven to kill by her unborn baby.

Gurinder Chadha

Gurinder Chadha’s first feature, 1993’s Bhaji on the Beach, received a Bafta nomination for Best British Film. Since then, the Kenyan-born Londoner has helmed successes like Bend It Like Beckham, Bride & Prejudice and Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging.

Her latest, Viceroy’s House, is released in the UK on March 3 and stars Gillian Anderson, Michael Gambon and Hugh Bonneville. Also featuring Om Puri in one of his final roles, the story is an upstairs-downstairs drama set in 1947 India and is based around the true tale of Lord Mountbatten’s experiences as the last Viceroy, charged with handing India back to its people.

Roxanne Benjamin, Karyn Kusama, St. Vincent and Jovanka Vuckovic

Who doesn’t love a good horror anthology? XX is unique in that all the segments are directed by women, with Southbound’s Roxanne Benjamin taking control of one of the narratives and Annie Clark – aka musician St. Vincent – making her directorial debut with another. Aeon Flux, Girlfight and The Invitation helmer Karyn Kusama is also on board alongside Jovanka Vuckovic.

Segments include ‘The Birthday Party’, Clark’s black comedy about a mother throwing her daughter a birthday celebration, and a father who commits suicide, and Benjamin’s ‘Don’t Fall’, a cabin-in-the-woods horror. Kusama’s ‘Her Only Living Son’, meanwhile, is an unsettling occult horror and Vuckovic’s ‘The Box’ is a more straightforward horror tale based on the Jack Ketchum short story.

The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, and is available via on-demand services from February 17. It also has a limited theatrical release in the US.

There has long been a call for more diversity in mainstream cinema and these trailblazing women are helping to lead that charge. Adding greater depth to the storytelling pool and different perspectives to those we’re used to seeing can only be a good thing. We’re looking forward to seeing 2017 prove itself to be a game-changing year.

Kim Taylor-Foster
Kim Taylor-Foster is Entertainment Editor for Fandom in the UK. She was raised on an unsteady diet of video nasties and violent action flicks.