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5 Strong American Female Drama Directors: Life Is a Battlefield

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In continuing the theme of female movie directors, here is a great selection of the best American female drama directors who have and continue to make waves in the movie world. Stories are everywhere you look and these drama directors have a panache for portraying those that are thought provoking, poignant and portray humanitarian themes as well as delivering entertainment.

Top Five Selection

This is my top five best American female drama directors in no particular order. I’ve chosen to include Angelina Jolie because, although she has only directed three movies so far, two of which have been released, she is still directing and has new projects in the making. I feel that her movies are relevant, searching and stand up there with the best that Hollywood has to offer and I’m certain that we’ll see a great deal more from her in the future.
Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie is an actress and director as well as a United Nations peace ambassador. She is possibly better known for the Lara Croft: Tomb Raider movies. Angelina is inexorably drawn to warzones and in 2011 she made her directorial debut with the Bosnia set romantic drama, In the Land of Blood and Honey. She wrote the script in response to how poorly the world reacts to man-made disasters. War and its far-reaching consequences in particular is something she feels very strongly about.

When she later met the real Louis Zamperini, a former Olympian and World War Two veteran, she says, “I was more emotional than he was. I went in to take care of him – and he was taking care of me.” Sadly, Louis passed away in July 2014, but not before seeing the film which portrays his life in the war.

Angelina directs action/drama movies and also romance.

Her Best Movies

Her latest movie, Unbroken (2014), begins in 1943 and tells the story of Olympian Louis Zamperini (played by Jack O’Connell). When Louis joins the 8th Air Force during World War Two, he’s based in the pacific theatre of war as an air force bombardier. Following a near-fatal air crash, Louis spends a harrowing 47 days in a life raft along with two of his crew before they’re finally rescued by the Japanese navy and taken to a POW camp.

In the Land of Blood and Honey (2011) is set during the Bosnian war and was written by Jolie. A soldier fighting for the Serbs, re-encounters Ajla, a Bosnian who’s now a captive in the camp she oversees. The commander recognises her as a woman he met in a night-club and wooed and so he discreetly protects her. They rekindle their love but can he trust her?

Her latest movie is By the Sea and it will be released in November 2015. It’s a romantic drama written and directed by Angelina and also starring Angelina with her real life husband Brad Pitt. The movie follows an American writer named Roland (Pitt) and his wife, Vanessa (Jolie), who arrive at a seaside resort in 1970’s France, their marriage in crisis.

Angelina Jolie is unbroken; a strong and determined humanitarian who is fearless and passionate about the stories she portrays.

Kathryn Bigelow

Kathryn Bigelow is a talented painter who earned a scholarship to study film at Columbia University School of Arts, graduating in 1979. She is also a member of the British avant garde cultural group, Art and Language and the only woman ever to have won the Golden Globe for Best Director (2010).

Quotes: “There should be more women directing; I think there’s just not the awareness that it’s really possible. It is.” But what makes Kathryn tick? She recently said, “War’s dirty little secret is that some men love it. I’m trying to unpack why, to look at what it means to be a hero in the context of 21st-century combat.”

“I want to make films. I think of it as a great opportunity to comment on the world in which we live. Perhaps just because I just came off The Hurt Locker (2008) and I’m thinking of the war and I think it’s a deplorable situation. It’s a great medium in which to speak about that. This is a war that cannot be won, why are we sending troops over there? Well, the only medium I have, the only opportunity I have, is to use film. There will always be issues I care about.”

Kathryn directs movies of most genres, but is particularly known for action movies. She’s covered drama, thriller, crime, historical and war movies.

Her Best Movies

The Hurt Locker (2008) is set during the heart of the Iraq War. A sergeant recently assigned to an army bomb squad is put at odds with his squad mates due to his maverick way of handling his work. The movie portrays a band of elite soldiers who have one of the most dangerous jobs – disarming bombs.

Zero Dark Thirty (2012) is a drama/ history/thriller which is a chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, following the September 2001 attacks. As Bigelow states, “The film doesn’t have an agenda, and it doesn’t judge. I wanted a boots-on-the-ground experience.”

Other movies include Point Break (1991), Strange Days (1995), Blue steel (1989), Near Dark (1987), The Loveless (1981), The Set-Up (1978).

Kathryn Bigelow, getting to the heart of the action and exposing the 21st-century hero.

Barbra Streisand

Barbra Streisand is the epitome of an entertainer. She’s a singer, actress, director and producer as well as a multi-award winner for all that she does. She’s one of the best-selling music artists of all time and has starred in many movies from Funny Girl to Meet the Fockers. Barbra has starred in comedies, musicals and dramas and now in her directing career she directs comedies, musicals and dramas. She is extremely versatile.

Quotes: “Art does not exist only to entertain, but also to challenge one to think, to provoke, even to disturb, in a constant search for truth.”

Her Best Movies

Her debut movie, Yentl (1983) was a first in the movie world for a woman to write, produce, direct and star in. Barbra certainly set the trend and paved the way for women directors. In the movie, she stars as a Jewish girl, forced to pass herself off as a man to pursue her dreams. It was well received and the beautiful score has been hailed as one of Streisand’s finest musical works.

The Mirror has Two Faces (1996). Rose and Gregory are professors at Columbia University who meet when Rose’s sister answers Gregory’s “personals” advertisement. Gregory believes that sex has ruined his life and so he deliberately sets out to marry a woman with no sex appeal whatsoever. He chooses Rose (Streisand). However, life is never that simple and the marriage is almost ruined when Rose attempts to consummate it. Will her personal transformation be enough to save their relationship?

Other credits include Streisand’s concerts and The Prince of Tides (1991).

Barbra Streisand, the funny girl with a versatile repertoire and the Midas touch.

Sofia Coppola

Sofia Coppola is an American director, producer and actress. She is the daughter of director Francis Ford Coppola of The Godfather fame. She started a clothing line after college and continued her acting career, something she had done since childhood. However, when her performance in The Godfather Part III was critically panned, and she was named worst supporting actress, she decided to end her career. In 2010, she became the first American woman to win the Golden Lion, the top prize at the Venice Film Festival. “It was really when I read the book The Virgin Suicides that made me wanna make a movie.”

She made her first feature-film directing debut with The Virgin suicides (1999) and it premiered in North America at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival. Sofia directs a range of genre movies including biographical, crime drama and romance drama.

“There’s so many more female directors than when I started. That’s encouraging.”

Her Best Movies

The Bling Ring (2013) was inspired by actual events. A group of fame-obsessed teenagers use the internet to track celebrities’ whereabouts so that they may rob their homes.

Lost in Translation (2003) features a fading movie star and a neglected young wife who cross paths in Tokyo and form an unlikely bond, starring Bill Murray and Scarlet Johansson. Coppola wrote and directed this movie and in 2004 she won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. She also won three Golden Globe Awards including Best Picture Musical or Comedy.

Other credits include Somewhere (2010), Marie Antoinette (2006).

Sophia Coppola, the fearless director who just makes what she would like to see without worrying about an audience and critics.

Nancy Meyers

Nancy Meyers is an American film director, producer and screenwriter who has written several big-screen successes. Born in Philadelphia, she gained a degree in journalism and then worked as a production assistant at CBC before quitting to focus on screen-writing and film-making classes. Her films often portray the older couple and focus on relationships and Meyers seems to have a panache for making aging seem flawless. She says, “I have a friend who has this theory. Once all of the stress of being a younger couple – raising families, career pressure – is gone, that’s when you could actually have the best shot at having a decent relationship.”

Nancy directs comedy drama romance and comedy fantasy romance movies.

Her Best Movies

Something’s Gotta Give (2003) starring Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton and Keanu Reeves. Harry Sanborn (Nicholson) is an aged music industry executive who likes younger women. When he suffers a heart attack at the home of his girlfriend’s mother, Erica (Keaton) he finds himself left in the care of Erica and his doctor and things begin to get complex.

It’s Complicated (2009) starring Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin. When a divorced couple rekindle the spark in their relationship, things become complicated, especially as he’s remarried.

Other movies include The Parent Trap (1998), What Women Want (2000), The Holiday (2006).

Nancy Meyers is the director with the passionate touch who breathes sassiness and fire back into older couples.


What Do You Think?

These American women directors are flying high and have more to offer. They’re paving the way for others to follow, for a fresh generation and hopefully in the future we’ll see more women in the directing field.

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