Like it or not, filmmaking is undeniably a director's medium. It wasn't always like that, of course: it was only the coming of the auteur theory in the 1950s and 1960s that popularized the idea of the director as the person responsible for all that was great and terrible about a picture. And while anyone who's worked in film knows that it's a collaborative medium, there's still no better way of seeing where the form might be going in the next few years than by looking at the directors who've been making splashes of late.
So, hot on the heels of our On The Rise pieces focusing on actors, actresses and screenwriters, we've picked out ten directors who've arrived in a big way in the last year or so, and look set for even greater things in the near future. Any tips of your own? Let us know in the comments section below.
One of the best films of the year so far is one that first appeared right at the beginning of 2011: Zal Batmanglij's "Sound Of My Voice." The film premiered at Sundance in January 2011, part of a double-header with "Another Earth," both co-written by and starring new indie darling Brit Marling. The box office has been pretty disappointing, but the few who have seen the film, which follows a pair of amateur documentary filmmakers investigating a mysterious cult run by a woman who claims to be from the future, know that it marks Batmanglij as a serious talent. The son of famous Persian food writer Najmieh Batmanglij (and brother of Vampire Weekend member Rostam, who scored "Sound Of My Voice"), he met Marling and "Another Earth" director Mike Cahill at Georgetown, before going on to AFI film school, where he graduated in 2006. Marling and Batmanglij started writing their project in 2008, and when financing fell through, they decided to make it with what little resources they had. You wouldn't know it to watch the film: it's a remarkably confident and complex debut, with a script that's not quite like anything you've seen, and focused, taut direction. The film landed the duo on radars in a big way, and Fox Searchlight soon snapped up their next project, "The East" (a film that they'd tried to get made before "Sound Of My Voice," with a cast including Andrew Garfield and Rooney Mara, names that financiers felt weren't big enough at the time. Oops...) Starring Marling as a woman who infiltrates an anarchist terrorist group, and with Alexander Skarsgard, Ellen Page, Toby Kebbell and Patricia Clarkson among the cast, the film is being edited, and we're guessing will hit festivals by the end of the year. From there, the sky's the limit.
As far as saviors of action cinema go, Gareth Evans is an unlikely one. The 31-year-old hails from the tiny Welsh village of Hirwaun, and only five years ago was teaching Welsh as a foreign language over the internet while trying to get his micro-budget debut "Footsteps" completed. Unable to get any traction in the British film industry, the director moved with his wife to her original home of Indonesia, and found work making a documentary about the country's martial art pencak silat, which was virtually unknown outside the nation. It was there that he met Iko Uwais, a diminuitive practicioner who was working as a driver for a telecom company at the time. The duo teamed up for 2009's "Merantau," an actioner that proved to be a hit at home and on the festival circuit, but it was nothing compared to the sensation caused by their follow-up "The Raid," which premiered at TIFF last year. The film, made for a relatively meager budget, is a tight-as-a-drum actioner starring Uwais as a SWAT team member stranded in a tower block full of drug lord henchmen that are ready to murder the hell out of him, and it sent genre fans ballistic immediately, with comparisons to "Die Hard" and "Hard Boiled" flowing freely. And they're entirely justified: the film isn't just brilliantly choreographed, but thrillingly shot, the camera ever moving, but always keeping the ass-kicking clear as day. It's made Evans an overnight star, and while he's prepping a sequel to "The Raid" with Uwais, "Berental," he's starting to make inroads into Hollywood, signing on to direct former Darren Aronofsky heist project "Breaking The Bank" at Universal.