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Female directors: 13 names everyone should know



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Ava Duvernay, Jill Soloway, Mira Nair and Kelly Reichardt are just a few of many capable female directors in Hollywood. Tribune New Service Buy Photos

From well-known names like Kathryn Bigelow and Ava DuVernay to up-and-coming talents like Dee Rees, female directors are a minority in Hollywood. While the entertainment industry is male-dominated at the moment, these underrated female directors demand recognition.

Amma Asante: With “Belle” in 2013 and “A United Kingdom” earlier this year, Asante has proven herself the queen of mixed-race romance in period dramas. She continues that streak with upcoming - and potentially controversial - film “Where Hands Touch,” which follows the romance between a mixed-race girl and a white SS officer in Nazi Germany.

Andrea Arnold: From “Fish Tank” to “American Honey,” writer and director Arnold is a master of indie coming-of-age dramas. For “American Honey,” starring Sasha Lane and Shia LaBeouf as two misguided teens, Arnold won the 2016 Special Jury Prize at Cannes Film Festival. She has also directed three episodes of “Transparent.”

Kathryn Bigelow: Perhaps one of the most well-known female directors, Bigelow started off by directing and producing short films, then was noticed by higher-up directors, which led her to her current status as one of the biggest female directors in the business. She tends to explore the inner-workings of gender and racial politics in cinema and in the action genre. “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty” are two of her most recent and ground-breaking films, and she is the only female to ever win Best Director at the Academy Awards.

Sofia Coppola: There’s a reason Coppola is one of the few female directors that most people can name. With a number of popular films including “The Virgin Suicides,” “Lost in Translation,” and “Marie Antoinette,” Coppola has made a name for herself in Hollywood beyond that of her father, director Francis Ford Coppola. Her latest film, “The Beguiled,” starring Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Colin Farrell and Elle Fanning, comes out later this year.

Ava DuVernay: DuVernay has a long history of winning honors for her brilliant confrontations of racism. Her 2015 film “Selma,” about the equal rights protests and march from Selma to Montgomery, was nominated for Best Picture last year. She followed it with “13th,” a documentary about mass incarceration, which earned various awards this year. Currently, DuVernay creates, directs and produces “Queen Sugar” on the Oprah Winfrey Network. She’ll next appear in movie theaters with 2018’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” based on the mind-bending classic fantasy novel.

Dee Rees: Rees broke out at Sundance Film Festival in 2011 with “Pariah,” about a black teenager struggling with her sexual expression. Rees, who is black and queer herself, returns this year with “Mudbound,” which Netflix bought at Sundance for a staggering $12.5 million. Her second feature, which follows black and white families in Mississippi after World War II, is already receiving 2018 Oscar buzz for Rees’ masterful directing.

Kelly Reichardt: Writer and director Reichardt has been a quiet, consistent success in the independent film industry for decades now, and she isn’t slowing down anytime soon. With 2016’s “Certain Women,” Reichardt painted a reserved, beautiful picture of women in middle-America. Starring Kristen Stewart, Michelle Williams, Laura Dern and Lily Gladstone, the film won various critics association awards and re-launched Gladstone’s career.

Mira Nair: Indian director Mira Nair has 24 directing credits to her name, the most recent of which was “Queen of Katwe,” starring David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o. While Nair has a background in Bollywood and Indian cinema, “Queen of Katwe” was received warmly by critics and audiences alike, and more Hollywood work is hopefully in her future.

Niki Caro: Caro broke into the directing scene in 2002 with “Whale Rider,” and the New Zealand-born director isn’t stopping anytime soon. After completing this year’s “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” starring Jessica Chastain, Caro will tackle Disney’s live-action remake of “Mulan.”

Patty Jenkins: With the release of “Monster” starring Charlize Theron in 2003, Jenkins proved that she can hold her own in Hollywood. The film was based on the life of serial killer Aileen Wuornos, and it won Theron an Oscar for her lead performance. Jenkins has plenty of eyes on her this year with the release of her first true blockbuster, DC’s “Wonder Woman.” No pressure.

Jill Soloway: The creator of “Transparent” on Amazon, Soloway is an outspoken advocate for transgender rights. Along with serving as executive producer and showrunner for the series, she has also directed a number of episodes and has a long list of production credits on other TV shows.

Lesli Linka Glatter: Very few directors, female or otherwise, have the television directing experience that Glatter has racked up over thirty years in the industry. She has directed episodes for some of the most beloved series in TV history, including “Twin Peaks,” “Gilmore Girls,” “Freaks and Geeks,” “The West Wing” and “Mad Men.” Glatter is currently employed by “Homeland” and directed much of the newest season.

Karyn Kusama: Kusama is one of many female directors who have both television and film directing experience. She has worked on “Billions,” “Halt And Catch Fire,” and “Masters of Sex,” but is best known for her filmography. “Jennifer’s Body” put Kusama on the map in 2009, but she is most celebrated for the 2015 thriller “The Invitation.”

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