Four Debut Feature Directors to Celebrate on International Women’s Day

Female filmmakers whose first features promise a bright cinematic future.

Started in 1911 before it was officially recognized by the United Nations in 1977, International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8 to promote women’s equality around the world.

This year, we’re highlighting the work of four female filmmakers whose first feature suggests a promising career ahead for them. From hard-hitting social dramas to playful takes on popular genres, the diverse and distinct perspectives in these movies optimistically point towards the future of film.

Polite Society

Nida Manzoor | Polite Society

In Nida Manzoor’s Polite Society, Ria (Priya Kansara) and Leah Khan (Ritu Arya) are teenage sisters ready to take on the world. When Lena is charmed into marriage by the dashing Salim (Akshay Khanna) and his powerful mother, Raheela (Nimra Bucha), Ria and her gang of school friends spring into action, devising a comical caper to smash the marriage plot. “Getting to make an action film where these two women are fighting—it’s physical, it’s strength, it’s beautiful, it’s cathartic,” Manzoor told Filmmaker Magazine. “As inspirational as it is entertaining, Polite Society is a strong debut from Manzoor and a rallying cry for a whole swath of brand-new stars to champion,” writes IndieWire.

Watch Polite Society now!

Official trailer for Polite Society

A Thousand and One

A.V. Rockwell | A Thousand and One

In A Thousand and One, A. V. Rockwell creates a poignant portrait of a Black mother living in NYC in the 1990s and 2000s. Rockwell tells Indiewire, “I felt like the experiences of Black women in society were overlooked—not only within society, though, but even within our own communities and families.” In a story spanning nearly two decades, Inez (Teyana Taylor) raises her son in New York City, where the economic and political challenges grow more complex. Winner of the 2024 Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature and Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize, A Thousand and One clearly shows off Rockwell’s remarkable vision. “In telling the story of Inez and Terry—who make a home with each other and who have both been repeatedly failed by institutional forces—Rockwell is simultaneously chronicling the intersecting life stories of a neighborhood, a city, and a world,” writes The New York Times.

Watch A Thousand and One now!

Official trailer for A Thousand and One

Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.

Adamma Ebo | Honk For Jesus: Save Your Soul.

In Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul., writer-director Adamma Ebo plumbs the comedy and complexity of Southern megachurches. Having grown up in this world, Ebo explains in the production notes, “We wanted to make sure that these characters never felt like caricatures.” Constructed as a mockumentary, the film follows the efforts of pastor Lee-Curtis Childs (Sterling K. Brown) and his wife Trinitie Childs (Regina Hall) to win back their congregation after the Wander to Greater Paths Baptist Church is rocked by scandal. Highlighting her as an emerging talent, NPR writes, “While Adamma Ebo certainly pokes fun at her protagonists, she never denies them their humanity.”

Watch Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul. now on iTunes and Amazon!

Official trailer for Honk For Jesus: Save Your Soul.

Lisa Frankenstein

Zelda Williams | Lisa Frankenstein

Written by Academy Award winner Diablo Cody, Lisa Frankenstein shows off director Zelda William's filmmaking passion and unique sense of humor. Lisa Swallows (Kathryn Newton) is an awkward high schooler who comes into her own when she brings back a 19th-century corpse (Cole Sprouse). In this '80s spin on Mary Shelly’s novel, Williams offers a fiercely funny turn on the conventional passive female role. “We spend so much time trying to make the way we navigate anything more palatable for others, especially women,” Williams tells Rolling Stone. “Lisa gets to do the opposite.” The Wrap writes about Williams, “With Lisa Frankenstein as her first wacky and wonderful calling card, there’s no denying she is a filmmaker to watch.”

Watch Lisa Frankenstein in theaters or on Apple TV or Amazon.

Official trailer for Lisa Frankenstein