A limited number of filmmakers have garnered world-wide acclaim through a definitive style and understanding of the medium. These range from the American Giants (such as John Ford, Stanley Kubrick & Martin Scorsese) and Independents (Paul Thomas Anderson, Terence Malick & Spike Jonze) to International Visionaries (Francois Truffaut, Ingmar Bergman, Michelangelo Antonioni & Andrei Tarkovsky).
The following is a list of directors whose work has been equally vital and vivid and yet often overlooked. In other words, these are the filmmakers who you might not know but should:
Agnes Varda, France
Style: French New Wave, personal, human and direct
Quote: If we opened people up, we’d find landscapes.
Key Films: La Pointe Courte (1955) Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962), The Gleaners and I (2001)
John Boorman, UK/USA
Style: New American, raw and intuitive
Quote: I think they’re all bold films, for better or worse.
Key Films: Deliverance (1972), Excalibur (1981) & Hope and Glory (1987)
Jim Jarmusch, USA
Style: Eclectic, character based & banal dialogue
Quote: I talk kind of slowly. I think slowly. I like slow music. I like slow films.
Key Films: Down by Law (1986), Night on Earth (1991), Dead Man (1995) & Paterson (2016)
Michael Haneke, Austria
Style: Spare and metaphoric
Quote: How much can I not spell out when constructing a film and still not frustrate the audience?
Key Films: The Seventh Continent (1989), White Ribbon (2009) & Amour (2012)
Jafar Panahi, Iran
Style: Quietly defiant, personal and spare
Quote: I have a tendency to make “film time” the same as “real time”.
Key Films: The Mirror (1997), This is not a Film (2011) & Taxi (2015)
Bruce Sweeney, Canada
Style: Lost, uncertain and unresolved
Quote: I have a lot of anxieties and insecurities.
Key Films: Dirty (1998) & Last Wedding (2001)
Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Belgium
Style: Working class, responsible and realistic
Quote: Film helps you think and reflect. It’s a quiet kind of conversation.
Key Films: The Son (2002), The Child (2005), Two Days, One Night (2015)
Susanne Bier, Denmark
Style: Influenced by Dogme 95, unblinking focus on relationships
Quote: You can’t be ashamed of big emotions if you make movies.
Key Films: Open Hearts (2002), After the Wedding (2007) & In a Better World (2010)
Lynn Ramsay, Scotland
Style: Brooding, personal and challenging
Quote: You’ve got to stick up for what you believe in. If you don’t do that, you’re doing a disservice to the audience.
Key Films: Morvern Caller (2002), We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011) & You Were Never Really Here (2017)
Hirokazu Koreeda, Japan
Style: Meditative focus on family dynamics
Quote: You can no longer interpret the true value or purpose of family based on the antiquated traditional tropes of society.
Key Films: Like Father, Like Son (2013), After the Storm (2016) & Shoplifters (2018)