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Best Of 2013: The Breakout Directors Of The Year

by The Playlist Staff
November 27, 2013 5:20 PM
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Upstream Color, Amy Seimetz

Amy Seimetz (“Sun Don’t Shine”)
Some people act, write and direct, and some people tell the story of the year in film all their own, “Zelig”-style. In 2013, Seimetz was one of those people in the independent world. As a member of the ensemble of cheeky no-fi horror crossover “You’re Next,” Seimetz ended up cavorting with contemporaries Ti West and Joe Swanberg through a relatively mainstream-y slasher. She also became an unlikely love interest in Shane Carruth’s bewitching “Upstream Color,” giving one of the year’s strongest lead performances. And Seimetz (who also popped up in Ti West’s as-yet-unreleased “The Sacrament”) made her mark as a director as well, helming the sweaty, steamy no-budget noir “Sun Don’t Shine.” It’s a film that plays out as a mystery, gradually unpeeling itself to reach a charred core, except that one can’t help but notice you’ll keep unpeeling long after the movie is over. Seimetz has made a disquieting debut, a tense picture where not much of consequence happens, but the audience remains riveted to their seats, as if one wrong move while watching the picture could yield a nasty punishment for the characters in front of you. It’s a small film, but once that announces a major talent behind the screen, one who isn’t beholden to small budgets, but rather enthralled by them. “Sun Don’t Shine” never feels slight, and never feels less than vital.


Shaka King (Newlyweeds”)
NYU grad Shaka King’s debut feature is unclassifiable, if only because it so successfully melds two things mainstream filmgoers love. One is the romantic comedy, and King scored heavily with unknowns Trae Harris and Amari Cheatom as a married couple who rely on each other for companionship, love and understanding. And also bud, since the other thing filmgoers love is comedic drug use. There’s a catharsis to watching others onscreen interact with a controlled substance, and in “Newlyweeds” there’s no shortage of the sticky icky to please the potheads in the audience. But it’s not all jokes for this film, as King has to measure the balancing act of carefree pot use and pot-fueled gags and fantasies, but also the realities of when a vice starts to pry at the relationship between two people. It’s essentially a love triangle where one part of the tripod doesn’t speak, allowing the film to reflect on the social realities of being middle-to-lower-middle class in New York City and wanting to indulge in a bit of luxury once in awhile. King’s first film is an absolute pleasure from beginning to end, and earlier this year we named it one of the all-time great pot films, but it’s also one of the year’s best films full stop.


Honorable Mention:
There were many filmmakers we liked whom we nonetheless felt made films that straddled the line between 2012 and 2013, including Adam Leon (“Gimme The Loot”), Lucy Molloy (“Una Noche”), Andrew Semans (“Nancy, Please”) and Terence Nance (“An Oversimplification Of Her Beauty”). Among this year’s rookies, there were strong debuts we felt we should mention from the likes of Stace Passon (“Concussion”), John Krokidas (“Kill Your Darlings”), Kieran Darcy-Smith (“Wish You Were Here”), Rebecca Thomas (“Electrick Children”), Aaron Schimberg (“Go Down Death”), Andrew Dosunmu ("Mother Of George"), Jim Mickles ("We Are What We Are") and Ana Piterbarg (“Everyone Has A Plan”).

Among bigger names, the team of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg scored a $100 million hit their first time out with the very funny “This Is The End,” while Keanu Reeves revealed some interesting action chops with the diverting “Man Of Tai Chi.” It can be intimidating making your big screen debut on a studio level, but that didn’t stop Fede Alvarez (“The Evil Dead”) and Andres Muschietti (“Mama”) from making an impression, and while their films slightly falter in the third acts, they’ve deservedly become in-demand names with the studios. James DeMonaco also used the horror genre to prop up his career with his second film, “The Purge,” and should note the efforts from second-time filmmakers Hannah Fidell (“A Teacher”) and Jeremy Sauliner (festival fave “Blue Ruin,” coming in ‘14). — Jessica Kiang, Gabe Toro, Katie Walsh, Cory Everett

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  • Rob Roy | December 28, 2013 12:35 PMReply

    Thanks for a list. Some of these films I´v seen (Newlyweeds a few days ago) , some not, but definitely goin´to watch them when the time comes. But people, listen to me and look for little indie film The Battery, it´s labeled under the horror genre (zombies), but it´s much more than that. Great character piece with awesome soundtrack and very solid performances. I saw it a few days ago and it´s the last movie this year which sneaked on my TOP 10 list. Go and see it, for me probably the best micro budget indie since Bellflower

  • newyorker | December 4, 2013 2:53 PMReply

    my 10 favorite breakout directors this year are
    1-Ryan Coogler-Fruitvale Station
    2-Henry Alex Rubin-Disconnect
    3-Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg-This Is The End
    4-Joseph Gordon Levitt-Don Jon
    5-Fede Alvarez-Evil Dead
    6-Maggie Carey-The To Do List
    7-Nat Faxon & Jim Rash-The Way, Way Back
    8-Benson Lee-Battle Of The Year
    9-Stuart Blumberg-Thanks For Sharing
    10-Lake Bell-In A World

  • Franco | December 2, 2013 2:50 PMReply

    James Franco as a Director should not be ignored for brilliant As I Lay Dying (Tim Blake Nelson as Anse gives an Oscar winning performance) and Child of God (Scott Haze as Lester Ballard another Oscar winning performance).

    Franco adapted two very different but extremely difficult novels that no one has ever tried before, he should be applauded for his achievements.

  • Chris | November 28, 2013 4:42 PMReply

    Gimmie the Loot should not be an honorable mention.

  • Luke | November 28, 2013 12:37 PMReply

    Nevermind 2013, I'd suggest that The Act of Killing is one of the most remarkable documentaries of all time; one that will pervade the cultural, social and political zeitgeist for years to come.

    I'd also vouch for Clio Bernard with The Selfish Giant. Sure, she found some success with the documentary The Arbour, but I think that this new joint puts her right up there at the front with the Dardenne Brothers and Ken Loach as a poetic-naturalist filmmaker. Very bold, beautiful and resonating stuff.

  • Five Easy Pieces | November 28, 2013 2:04 AMReply

    Ryan Coogler's Fruitvale Station did not win the Camera D'or for Best First Film at Cannes, as the article states. Anthony Chen's Ilo Ilo won.

  • GERARD KENNELLY | November 28, 2013 1:20 AMReply

    i want to watch ,,,

    KILL YOUR DARLINGS........ dane dehaan

    EVERYBODY HAS A PLAN ...... might do for viggo what dead ringers did for irons

    MAMA ........ headhunters star nikolai coster waldau

    CONCUSSION ...... a fearless sexy performance by all accounts

  • BRAD LEE COUP PAIR | November 28, 2013 1:10 AMReply

    i have to say the only film this year that stucks out in my mind when it
    comes to direction is The Place Beyond The Pines

  • THOR | November 27, 2013 5:17 PMReply

    I guess Sebastian Silva and Joe Swanberg don't count?

  • Uhhh | December 29, 2013 9:46 PM

    as breakout directors? no, they don't.

  • oogle monster | November 27, 2013 1:10 PMReply

    In a recent interview (promoting Catching Fire), Jennifer Lawrence said she is PRODUCING The Glass Castle. There was no mention of her actually going in front of the camera. Any confirmation?

  • Carlos | November 27, 2013 1:58 PM

    I'm pretty sure she's also starring. The author of the memoir has even commented on her casting.

  • Kevin | November 27, 2013 1:22 PM

    Click on the link and you'll find all the info you need to know ;)

  • DG | November 27, 2013 12:25 PMReply

    No Shane Carruth? I know he's already got Primer but this year felt like more of a 'breakthrough' for him

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