2019’s award season highlighted the entrenched disparity between the quality of female-directed films being produced and the almost complete lack of recognition for them from awards bodies.
2020 is set to be a record-breaking year with 5 huge female-directed studio films set to hit screens, alongside many many more indies. We’ve already been treated to beautiful work such as Celine Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Alma Har’el’s Honey Boy, Autumn de Wilde’s Emma., Marielle Heller’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood, Melina Matsoukas’ Queen & Slim,and Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey.
This International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate some of the female-directed films coming out in 2020:
The Photograph dir. Stella Meghie
Starring Issa Rae and LaKeith Stanfield, The Photograph tells a series of intertwining love stories set in the past and present. Rae plays the estranged daughter of a famous photographer who falls in love with the journalist investigating her late mother’s life, and together they uncover a love story for the ages. Director Stella Meghie has previously directed episodes of Insecure, Grown-ish and The First Wives Club, and is currently in pre-production for another Issa Rae-starrer American Princess. The Photograph is in UK cinemas now.
Yeh Ballet dir. Sooni Taraporewala
A fictionalised version of a short documentary of the same name, Yeh Ballet follows two gifted by underprivileged Mumbai teens discovered by an eccentric ballet master. Facing bigotry and disapproval, the pair will stop at nothing to pursue their dancing dreams. Sooni Taraporewala is best known for her work as a writer on Salaam Bombay! and Mississippi Masala. Yeh Ballet is on Netflix now.
Misbehaviour dir. Philippa Lowthorpe
Centred around the controversial Miss World competition of 1970 and starring Keira Knightley and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Misbehaviour unpacks the fateful night in which the most-watched TV show on the planet was disrupted by the newly formed Women’s Liberation Movement, and resulted in a win for Miss Grenada, the first Black woman to be crowned Miss World. Phillipa Lowthorpe was the first woman to win a BAFTA for best director in 2013, and won again in 2018 for her acclaimed TV project Three Girls. Misbehaviour is in UK cinemas 13 March.
Lost Girls dir. Liz Garbus
When Mari Gilbert’s (Amy Ryan) daughter disappears, police inaction drives her own investigation into the gated Long Island community where Shannan (Thomasin McKenzie) was last seen. Her search brings attention to over a dozen murdered sex workers. This is prolific documentary filmmaker Liz Garbus’ first feature. Lost Girls is on Netflix 13 March.
Mulan dir. Niki Caro
This live-action adaptation of Disney’s beloved animation takes a more serious approach to the story of a Chinese girl who disguises herself as a man in order to serve in the army and protect her family. Niki Caro has directed The Zookeeper’s Wife, Whale Rider and episodes of Anne with an E. Mulan is in UK cinemas 27 March.
The Perfect Candidate dir. Haifaa Al-Mansour
A determined young Saudi doctor’s surprise run for office in the local city elections sweeps up her family and community as they struggle to accept their town’s first female candidate in this touching film about the power of community and determination. Haifaa Al-Mansour is Saudi Arabia’s first female filmmaker and has directed Wadjda and Nappily Ever After. The Perfect Candidate is in UK cinemas 27 March.
Promising Young Woman dir. Emerald Fennell
Carey Mulligan plays a woman out for revenge against would-be rapists in this stylish high-octane thriller that tackles female trauma like we’ve never seen it before. This is Emerald Fennell’s debut feature, and she is best known for her work as an actress in projects such as The Crown, Call the Midwife and Vita & Virginia. Promising Young Woman arrives in UK cinemas 17 April.
Rocks dir. Sarah Gavron
A brilliant ensemble cast of first-time actors take on the roles of a group of schoolgirls, one of whose lives is turned upside down when her mother vanishes, leaving her to fend for herself and her little brother. Sarah Gavron has directed Suffragette and Brick Lane. Rocks is in UK cinemas 24 April.
Black Widow dir. Cate Shortland
Scarlett Johansson returns to the role in a solo film ten years after her first outing as the iconic comic book character. Also starring Rachel Weisz and Florence Pugh, this film delves into Natasha Romanoff’s past as it catches up with her and she learns the most dangerous missions are the personal ones. Cate Shortland has directed Australian comedy series SMILF and feature thriller Berlin Syndrome. Black Widow is in UK cinemas 1 May.
Saint Maud dir. Rose Glass
Rising star Morfydd Clark plays a pious nurse who becomes unreasonably obsessed with saving the soul of her dying patient Amanda (Jennifer Ehle), a retired dancer ravaged by cancer…whatever the cost. This stylish and disturbing feature debut from Rose Glass firmly cements her as one to watch. Saint Maud is in UK cinemas 1 May.
The Roads Not Taken dir. Sally Potter
Starring Javier Bardem, Elle Fanning and Salma Hayek, this film follows a day in the life of a man of a Leo and his daughter Molly as he floats through alternate lives he could have lived, leading Molly to wrestle with her own path as she considers her future. Sally Potter is best known for directing The Party and Ginger and Rosa. The Roads Not Taken is in UK cinemas 1 May 2020.
The High Note dir. Nisha Ganatra
Tracee Ellis Ross stars as a superstar singer and Dakota Johnson as her overworked assistant in this musical comedy-drama where the pair are presented with a choice that could change their careers and lives forever. Nisha Ganatra has directed episodes of You Me Her, Brooklyn Nine Nine and Dear White People. The High Note is in UK cinemas 8 May.
Wonder Woman 1984 dir. Patty Jenkins
Sequel to the game-changing 2017 film, in 1984 Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) must face new villains Max Lord (Pedro Pascal) and Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) while reuniting with her lost love Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) and saving the world once more, but this time with an 80s soundtrack. Patty Jenkins also directed 2003 Charlize Theron hit Monster and episodes of The Killing and I Am The Night. Wonder Woman 1984 is in UK cinemas 5 June.
Candyman dir. Nia DaCosta
This spiritual sequel to the 1992 original returns to the now-gentrified Chicago neighbourhood haunted by the spirit of a man killed in a brutal racist attack. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Paris and Vanessa Williams star, and Jordan Peele produces. Nia DaCosta has directed episodes of the Top Boy reboot 2019’s Lily James and Tessa Thompson starrer Little Woods. Candyman is in UK cinemas 18 June.
Eternals dir. Chloé Zhao
Yet another huge Marvel project, this time introducing a host of new characters and concepts to the cinematic universe, Eternals follows a race of super beings who have been living in hiding on Earth, forced out into the open to face mankind’s most ancient enemy. Starring Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden and Kumail Nanjiani. Chloé Zhao directed 2017’s indie hit The Rider and is also in post-production for Frances McDormand starrer Nomadland. Eternals is due in UK cinemas in November.
First Cow dir. Kelly Reichardt
Set in 19th century Oregon, a loner cook (John Magaro) and a Chinese immigrant (Orion Lee) collaborate on a business idea that relies upon the surreptitious use of a milking cow owned by a wealthy landowner. Kelly Reichardt has directed Certain Women, Night Moves and Wendy and Lucy. First Cow premiered at Telluride Film Festival and does not yet have a UK release date.
Shirley dir. Josephine Decker
Starring Elizabeth Moss, Michael Stuhlbarg and Logan Lerman, this is the story of renowned horror writer Shirley Jackson, who finds fresh inspiration after her and her husband take in young couple. Actress and director Josephine Decker was much lauded for her 2018 film Madeleine’s Madeleine, and is currently in pre-production for an adaptation of young adult novel The Sky is Everywhere. Shirley premiered at Sundance, and does not yet have a UK release date.
Never Rarely Sometimes Always dir. Eliza Hittman
Best friends Autumn and Skylar must face the harsh prejudice of rural Pennsylvania when Autumn falls unexpectedly pregnant, and the teens must use all their resourcefulness to travel to New York for an abortion. Writer-director Eliza Hittman is best known for her 2017 film Beach Rats. Never Rarely Sometimes Always premiered at Sundance, and does not yet have a UK release date.