With Kajillionaire—in select theaters on September 25—writer/director Miranda July demonstrates, in The Playlist’s words, her “talent for recalibrating recognizable reality according to her own defiantly unconventional vision.” As the adult child of a pair of low-rent grifters (Richard Jenkins and Debra Winger), Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood) sees the world in her own comical, childish, and sometimes criminal way. It isn’t until Melanie (Gina Rodriguez) takes her under her wing that Old Dolio also begins to perceive herself in a new light. July not only sees the world differently, but uses all the tools at her command—be it as a filmmaker, actress, performance artist, writer, recording artist, or app creator—to bring her imagination to life. Two-time Oscar®-winning producer Dede Gerdner (Moonlight, 12 Years a Slave) was so taken with July's originality that she stepped up to get Kajillionaire made. “She just sees the world through a different lens and I think it permits a tone that I don’t see very often,” Gardner exclaims.
To honor Kajillionaire’s filmmaker, we’re spotlighting five other visionary filmmakers, women whose unique take on the world expands our horizons and enriches our experience.
Josie Rourke | Mary Queen of Scots
Josie Rourke dusted off the genre of historical drama with her directorial debut Mary Queen of Scots. Re-examining the life of the famously misunderstood monarch Mary (Saoirse Ronan)—as well as her complicated rivalry with her more powerful cousin Queen Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie)—Rourke reimagines court politics and intrigues from a decidedly female perspective. Having made her name as the Artistic Director of Donmar Warehouse, London’s premier theater powerhouse, Rourke demonstrated an equally intrepid spirit with her first film. From her striking set design to her forward-thinking casting by allowing a fuller representation of people of color, Rourke used her experience, as The Wrap noted, “to create scenes that are thrilling and effective, simply by focusing on the subtle details.”
Autumn de Wilde | EMMA.
Before directing EMMA., Autumn de Wilde was renowned for mixing style and substance with her emotionally intimate, technically astute rock photographs and music videos. With EMMA., she brings Jane Austen’s wit and words alive with eye-popping color and dramatic architectural design. Because of her visionary style, Elle Décor exclaims that “designers are obsessed with the new EMMA. movie.” There is more than just a scrumptious surface to her film. Her keen understanding of the period and the novel has allowed her to make an EMMA. that, according to Time Magazine, “feels both modern and authentic in the best way, inviting everyone, diehard Austenites and newbies alike, into its embrace.”
Eliza Hittman | Never Rarely Sometimes Always
With Never Rarely Sometimes Always, writer/director Eliza Hittman proves “herself as one of contemporary cinema’s most empathetic and skilled chroniclers of American youth,” exclaims IndieWire. When Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) travels with her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder) to New York City from Pennsylvania to deal with an unwanted pregnancy, her journey as captured by Hittman appears both intimate and epic. The precision of her filmmaking is demonstrated, according to Entertainment Weekly, by the way "Hittman resists the urge, again and again, to lean into sentiment, and the film succeeds as brilliantly as it does because she is vigilant not to fall down easy traps of romanticizing or wallowing in Autumn’s misfortune." As a result, Hittman turns a seemingly simple story of two women into a tale that reverberates with the experiences of countless others.
Julia Ducournau | Raw
With Raw , writer/director Julia Ducournau creates a startling vision of a young woman becoming an adult. By telling a traditional coming-of-age tale with the grisly imagery of a horror film, Ducournau creates a film that is simultaneously sensitive and shocking. During her first year at veterinary school, a young vegan named Justine (Garance Marillier) discovers new things about herself, including a growing appetite for both animal and human flesh. For Rolling Stone, Ducournau has created “a Modern Horror Masterpiece,” adding “You never get the sense that you’re not watching a master at work…She is the real thing.”
Dee Rees | Pariah
In Pariah, first-time writer/director Dee Rees uses her and others’ personal experiences to create an expansive vision of what it feels like to be a young African American lesbian growing up in Brooklyn. Caught between the stifling religious mores of her parents (Kim Wayans and Charles Parnell) and the no-holds-barred sexuality of her best friend (Pernell Walker), Alike (Adepero Oduye) searches to find her own identity. Rees' lyrical portrait captures Alike as a real person, “giving this fascinating young girl a context," notes The Wrap, adding that "unlike so many coming-of-age films that seem to take place in a vacuum, this movie remains fascinating even in its scenes that aren’t about its heroine."