They're remarkable. They're thought-provoking. They've worked with some of the best talent in Tinseltown. They may not always get their recognition due, but they've left indelible marks in the world of filmmaking. These are just a few of the women directors we're celebrating this month:
KASI LEMMONS: Most of us first noticed Kasi Lemmons when she brought us the story of a New Orleans family on the brink of turmoil in her 1997 directorial debut Eve's Bayou, starring Samuel L. Jackson, Lynn Whitfield, Debbi Morgan, Jurnee Smollett and Meagan Good. Lemmons shined when she picked apart the compounds of a family structure and exposed both their secrets and their highlights in equal measure. Lemmons possesses a power and a vulnerability in her voice that is equally dispersed at the right times throughout the movie. Lemmons was back in the spotlight once again with the critically-acclaimed 2007 bio-drama on radio deejay Ralph "Petey" Greene's rise to fame and infamy starring Don Cheadle and Chiwetel Ejifor Talk To Me. It is because of her ability to breathe life into these stories, and tackle tough issues like infidelity and social justice, that Lemmons is a truly commendable filmmaker. And she's only directed four movies. We can't wait to see what she does next. Whatever it is, we'll be watching.
MIRA NAIR: After directing documentaries in her native India, director Mira Nair tried her hand at her first American movie in 1991, the romantic dramedy Mississippi Masala, starring soon-to-be Hollywood heavyweight Denzel Washington and Sarita Choudhury. Taking on racial issues, political uprise, and social commentary, while presenting a palpable love story, Nair delivered a beautiful, underrated film, one of the very few that shows an African-American and Indian interracial romance. She continued to blaze trails with her boisterous yet charming 2001 effort Monsoon Wedding, and later the heartwrenching The Namesake, based on the bestselling first novel by Jhumpa Lahiri. Nair's trademark--the ability to find impeccable beauty in every frame--is reliably shown in her latest effort, 2009's Amelia, the biopic on Amelia Earhart starring Hilary Swank and Richard Gere. Nair is truly a soft yet potent voice behind the lens.
KATHRYN BIGELOW: You might have heard of a little film called The Hurt Locker, the war drama that took home the best picture--and best director-Oscar in 2010 (the first from a female director), starring Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie. The director in question is Kathryn Bigelow, a relative small fry in the directing world, with a few critically-acclaimed movies like 1995's cop drama Strange Days, starring Ralph Fiennes and 2002's thriller K-19: The Widowmaker. But it wasn't until The Hurt Locker when folks really started to take notice of Bigelow's work. Bigelow defied expectations of female directors by presenting hard-hitting stories with a series of visually striking sequences. She easily rivals some of her best male counterparts with her fearless, almost guerrilla-style filmmaking.
JULIE TAYMOR: Another director with an undeniable voice on film is Julie Taymor. With a resume that includes such films as the Shakespearean adaptation Titus starring Anthony Hopkins and the 2007 whimsical drama Across the Universe starring Evan Rachel Wood, Taymor has an uncanny ability to turn her movies into visual artwork. Perhaps no other film is more evident of that than 2002's Frida, starring Salma Hayek, detailing the life and career of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. A perfect marriage of both art and female empowerment, Taymor slipped into the role of both artist and director to convey a beautiful story told in the framework of a true aesthetic. Each scene was like a soft, deliberate stroke from a seasoned painter, rather than from a director who was only working on her second film. Taymor brought that very nuance into her latest work in last year's The Tempest, starring Helen Mirren and Djimon Hounsou.