Upcoming Filmmakers to Watch Out For
With just a few more months left until the year ends, we have been blessed with some of the best films across world cinema. Film festivals are back in action, OTT platforms are churning out voluminous content, and international cinema is gaining wider exposure – all of which, as a result, has led to more and more debutant filmmakers coming to light and delivering their finest, most exciting works.
While we cinephiles will always hold a piece of hearts for veteran filmmakers like Tarantino, Scorsese or even Imtiaz Ali, the fresh, new emerging voices in the industry are so exciting that their compelling works cannot be ignored.
In this blog, we will look at some such filmmakers – the ones who are bold, experimental and real, the torchbearers of the future of cinema.
A Georgian director, screenwriter and producer - Dea ventured into filmmaking with her short film Invisible Spaces, Ukhilavi sivrtseebi which immediately got nominated for the Palme D’Or at Cannes, in 2014 and went on to win several festival accolades.
Invisible Spaces, 2014
Something we love about young, emerging voices in filmmaking is women telling women’s stories, and Dea with her short, in mere 10 minutes, pulls us into the world of a traditional Georgian family where the husband, a priest, holds his wife captive, creating an invisible space.
Born in Russia and raised in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains in Georgia, Dea’s disparate upbringing - a mix of cultures, ethnicities and experiences have colored her approach and tinted the stories she tells, and the way she tells them.
We especially see this in her second short film, Lethe, another piece of art house cinema which is a 15 minutes exhibit of Dea’s pure artistic fervour and her prowess to tell unique stories.
Shot gorgeously in black and white 35 mm, the film is divided into two chapters - Fete (Celebration) and Le Fou (The Fool) set in a Georgian village where we see life through childish desires, community and violence. The distinct camera tracking technique, and the layered storytelling can be rooted back to her film school background where she studied film directing at Columbia University and media studies at The New School in New York.
You can watch Lethe on MUBI, here.
Said to be, ‘one of the most striking debuts in recent memory’, Kulumbegashvili’s first feature film, Beginning, affirmed her talent as a filmmaker bagging not just a Cannes entry, but also an entry for the 2021 Oscars in the best international features category.
The prolific director Luca Guadagnino, describes watching the film as a ‘transformative experience’ and an ‘opaque portrait of a woman in crisis within a world in crisis.’ More closely, the film follows the life of the protagonist Yana, the wife of her community’s religious leader David and the dark tale of her slowly but surely succumbing to the attacks by an extremist group.
The thematic concerns of Dea’s works are deeply rooted in the socio-political history of Georgia, her characters are a testament to the horrors of an upheaval in the system. Growing up, she witnessed the dismantling of communism in Georgia and the horrors of civil war — the abuse of power, the loss of agency, and religion as the opium for the masses in the distressed post-soviet countries, all of which inform her stylistic choices in filmmaking.
Dea Kulumbegashvili’s cinematic world is one full of personal stories with a universal resonance, the visuals are carefully crafted, and the sonic experience is transformative – all weaved into an experience that stays with you, and leaves you eager to see her next work.
With the unaccountable number of films being produced every year, very few manage to leave a lasting impression on you, films that stir the depths of your feelings, films that make you cry. Amongst varying genres, Japanese-Brazilian writer-filmmaker Edson Oda, is someone who blends and experiments with these genres along with his niche for emotional storytelling.
Imagine this: You enter an auditioning room where you find yourself in-between life and death. You’re not dead but you aren’t alive either. Your passage to the afterlife lies in the hands of someone who will morally evaluate your life and the choices you made.
Sounds strangely familiar? The core plot of Edson Oda is similar to a lot of the films that deal with the fantasy of an afterlife - be it Pixar’s Soul or the upcoming Bollywood film Thank God, but Oda’s vision is so poignant in its treatment of the film that even the rundown core plot is reinvigorated and given a completely new voice.
It is emotional, philosophical, and fantastical — made with a lot of heart and soul that went on to win not just several awards at film festivals, but also winning the heart of every person who watched the film.
Before his feature debut with Nine Days, Oda worked in advertising for over 10 years as a senior copywriter and commercial director in Brazil working with clients such as Honda, Nokia and Johnson and Johnson. His advertising career was thriving, he won several esteemed awards including the Cannes Lions in 2009 and was selected as one of the top 12 creatives under the age of 30 by the Clio Awards. But Oda knew filmmaking was his true calling, and so, he left Brazil and advertising to come to Los Angeles to study film and production at USC.
During this time, as Edson worked towards establishing a foundation as a filmmaker, he produced and experimented with many short films.
One of his finest, Malaria, is a short film which combines origami, kirigami, time-lapse, napkin illustration, comic books and western cinema. The Writer, incorporates a similar concoction of mediums which won Queintin Tarantino’s Django Unchained’s Emerging Artist Contest. A Sensorial Ride, is another short film which through the use of real projections shows the experience of riding a bicycle without actually riding one. His experimental temperament is certainly hinted at with his early jabs at filmmaking!
But to make his first feature film Edson knew he had to find something that was deeply personal to him. To find the answer, he asked himself - “If I could just make one movie in my entire life, what would that movie be?” That’s how the idea and script for Nine Days were conceived.
Put simply, the film is about a man named Will (Winston Duke) who bears the responsibility of interviewing souls and giving them a chance to be born. They only have nine days and in the end, he has to choose only one soul that will be born, while the rest cease to exist.
Interestingly, the concept of sensorial experience in his short film (left)
is also a part of the film Nine Days (right).
Nine Days is available on Amazon Prime and Apple TV.
The gifted creativity of Oda was something that was taken notice of by many veteran filmmakers including Spike Jonze who was one filmmaker Oda looked up to and idolized. Signing on as the producer for Nine Days and later even collaborating with Oda for his own project, Jonze recognised Oda’s boundless potential that we cinephiles are fortunate to witness!
“Edson is a special human with a special mind and heart. And ‘Nine Days’ is a film that comes straight from within him and therefore is special in the exact same way. Delicate and deep, like the man himself.” - Spike Jonze.
Another filmmaker who has recently been on every cinephile’s radar is the American director and screenwriter - Robert Eggers. Known most famously for his recent work, The Lighthouse starring Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe, Eggers filmography is surreal-experimentative-alternative and everything in between.
With just three feature-length films, he has already won several esteemed awards - the Sundance, the Cannes, and the Independent awards but beyond these accolades, Eggers also has developed an eager cult- fan following.
Heavily influenced by German Expressionism, Eggers first jab at filmmaking was reimagining the folklore of Hansel and Gretel. Shot on a shoe-string budget, with the unnerving visuals and the silent form – Eggers can convincingly portray the horrifying tale of the Grimm siblings. One can clearly connect his love for the freakish and spooky stories back then, and now.
In retrospect, Eggers describes this short as, “absolutely terrible” inspiring him to create something better - and oh, he certainly did.
He went on to make two more short films – The Tell-Tale Heart (2008) and Brothers (2013) which solidified his unique understanding of alternative horror. Eggers brought to light the dark, the macabre, successfully mastering and crafting a genre of his own.
After three years of struggle to secure financing for his feature-length film The Witch, Eggers made Brothers, an 11-minute short film as a proof of concept film with the general essence of what The Witch was going to embody - deep and deafening woods, children and naturalistic performances.
“I was up to the challenge. Luckily, I knew of a great location five minutes from where I grew up in rural New Hampshire that I could set an atmospheric story with the necessary ingredients.” - Robert Egges
Ultimately, The Witch got financed without the help of the Brothers, but helped in strengthening Eggers faith in himself and his collaborators, to pull off their first feature film.
Set in early 16th century New England, The Witch is quite simply about witches and the practice of occultism. But boiling down the film to simply that is irrefutably unfair. “A puritan’s nightmare” is how the filmmaker describes his movie which follows the tale of a family and the disappearance of their youngest son. Speculations, hysteria, and familial trauma all wind up to create the most-disturbing film we’ve seen in a while.
Bringing originality to the long-cliched genre of horror, Eggers believes that shining a flashlight into the darkness and running away giggling isn't actually scary – but if you’re actually going to go in there and see for yourself, that’s what makes it scary. This is certainly why while watching an Egger movie you’re bound to have moments where you feel you’re watching something you shouldn't be seeing.
Every morning Robert Egger habitually wakes up early to write and immerses himself in the specific period he is researching about. His frequent collaboration with historians, and his own love and ruminations for the past, all come together to bring on screen, the fantastical world-building.
In The Lighthouse (2019), we see Egger’s capability to transform us into the world of lighthouse keepers set in the 1880s. He does so with historically and socio-culturally informed dialogues, which are crafted with Sarah Orne Jewett’s 19th-century novels and poems as reference material for the dialect.
The visual beauty of The Lighthouse (2019)
The visual tonality of Egger’s films also stands apart. With his frequent collaborator, cinematographer Jarin Blaschke, The Lighthouse is shot on 35 mm. monochromatic film with a 1.19:1 square-ish and boxy aspect ratio to place the audience in the early silent films period. They also used specific camera lenses from 1912 and the 1930s to produce a thoroughly planned out visual language for the film.
His obsession with details, and his passion to create an immersive world for every one of his films are all a result of his love for the craft of filmmaking and with the critical acclaim amassed for his most recent film, The Northman - we cannot wait to see what more Robert Eggers has to offer.
Jasmeet K. Reen
One of 2022’s most anticipated releases was Darlings - a film by debutante filmmaker Jasmeet K. Reen starring seasoned actors like Shefali Shah and Alia Bhatt alongside Vijay Verma. A film that started a much-needed conversation around domestic violence, Reen treats and presents the issue tastefully and justifiably for the audience.
Jasmeet K. Reen
‘Thoda dark, thoda comedy’ — the film strikes a perfect balance between the sensitivity of the taboo subject and a non-preachy, entertaining approach. It's a marvel how skillfully this is achieved by Jasmeet, who before getting into filmmaking, started off her career working in advertising for agencies like McCann Erickson and Ogilvy & Mather. It took her several years to find something she truly loved and her explorations trickled into her interest in assisting for ad films and eventually joining a film course at the Film and Television Institute of India.
She went on to work as an Associate Director and Chief AD for several films such as Zinda and Musafir. Her first real attempt at creating something of her own was a short film - ‘The Right Note’ starring Swara Bhaskar and Tiku Tulsania. This 20-minute silent film follows the story of two strangers who cross paths and share a cab ride hilariously fighting over an astray 1000 rupee note in the cab and eventually their journey leads them into confiding with each other.
As we have seen with the previously discussed filmmakers, the short films made during the early phases of their careers always set the stage for the kind of work that is to follow. The same could be said for Jasmeet, who has the unique ability to observe the peculiarities of real people, their circumstances and translate it on screen, making them even more affable.
On the sets of Darlings (2022)
“A film should say something, and the intention is to start a conversation.” - Jasmeet K. Reen
For her debut feature film, after conceiving the idea of a story about a mother and daughter, Reen spent several months researching, interviewing and learning about the real victims of domestic violence and understanding why they choose to stay or leave. This extensive research informed the film’s overall plot, the memorable dialogues, Badri and Hamza’s characterisation and of course the resolution of the film.
Apart from being a director, Jasmeet is also a writer which inadvertently results in dialogues and screenplay playing a vital role in the overall tonality of her filmography. Before Darlings, she has written screenplays and dialogues for Pati Patni Aur Woh (2019), Fanney Khan (2018) and Force 2 (2016). If you’ve seen Darlings, you’re well acquainted with the unique lingo of the film, which again, was something Reen stumbled upon during her research in Byculla - a melting pot of all things Bombay, a “cosmopolitan chawl” as described by Reen herself. The mix of Hindi, English and Marathi sprinkled with bad grammar results in a hilariously personal and realistic portrayal of the characters of the film.
Storytelling isn’t just limited to live-action films and lucky for us, the progression of audio-visual mediums and techniques in animation have enabled storytelling to reach greater creative heights.
One such upcoming filmmaker who is pushing the boundaries of filmmaking in animation is the French artist, Adrien Merigeau. His animated short film, Genius Loci (2020) went on to be nominated for the Oscars and won several awards including the Bucheon Int'l Animation Festival, GLAS and Vienna Shorts.
The featurette follows the story of a young woman walking through the streets of the Parisian cityscape and undertakes (or is rather taken on) a psychological journey where carpets turn into trampolines and a cup of water turns into a river. With a run time of 16-minutes, Genius Loci ends up being a genius masterpiece in itself. While it is not your typical Pixar-esque animated film, it is experimentative and bold, bringing a much-needed fresh voice to filmmaking.
“The film talks about the birth of a person’s inner spirituality as she experiences the chaos of a Parian suburb at night, and the traumas she is escaping from.” - Adrien Merigeau
Adrein’s very first venture into filmmaking was Old Fangs (2009) — a short film released almost a decade ago. Akin to Genius Loci in its abstract art and experimentative narrative flow, Old Fangs is a beautiful, dream-like film about a young wolf who undertakes a journey with his two other friends to meet and reconnect with his estranged father.
What makes Adrien stand out and apart from other filmmakers is his ability to communicate a lot more about the characters, their intentions and motives through minimal story and more visuals. While style supersedes substance in Adrien’s filmography, it effectively manages to transport the audiences into the flowing narrative with beautiful, highly stylised visuals.
Every Frame A Painting
Taking inspiration from real settings and people, Adrien based his film on his experience living with a group of artistic friends - some poets, some musicians, living through the collective experience of life in “a flow state”. This ambiguity has certainly found its way into how the protagonist in Genius Loci drifts through the chaos of the city and different experiences.
“ I wanted the visual expression of the film to tell the film story intrinsically.” - Adrien Merigeau
As a director, Adrien embraced a collaborative approach to animate Genius Loci. He brought together some of the best artists in the game like Belgian cartoonist Brecht Evens, César winner Céline Devaux, Alan Holly to name a few — creating an artist collective that pieced together the puzzle to craft an aesthetic visual language of the film.
From the smallest of details to the grander thematic remunerations, Adrien is a filmmaker who has carved out a place for himself in the artistic world of visual storytelling as we anticipate his next projects!
The Hope Lives On…
It doesn’t matter what their age is or what their previous profession was - with so many talented creatives in the space of filmmaking, it is vital to acknowledge and support the works of emerging artists and celebrate their effort at creating something new, something individualistic, something personal. So while there are always going to be good movies and bad movies, our hope with cinema continues to live on through the works of these upcoming filmmakers.