The last ten years have been times of great change for cinema, and filmmakers working within the industry at every level have had to be nothing if not adaptable. We’ve seen passionate debate over film vs digital, streaming vs cinema exhibition, the products of the Disney juggernaut vs everything else. What follows is my pick of ten directors who have left a clear mark on this decade in film (in alphabetical order) and their greatest work.
But first, here’s to another decade of bold filmmaking voices making their mark, reaching wide-ranging audiences and continuing to progress the art form in an uncertain world.
1. Clio Barnard
The Arbor (2010) – The Selfish Giant (2013) – Dark River (2017)
A distinct female voice working prolifically within the British film industry and thus far not straying from her Yorkshire home county or compromising on her darkly poetic style, Clio Barnard is a pariah.
BAFTA and BIFA award nominee Barnard has moved fluidly between docu-drama and geographically rooted dramatic storytelling. Her stories have universal impact but make a particular connection with viewers from West Yorkshire who recognise the bleak-beautiful landscapes and people.
The one to watch: The Selfish Giant
Inspired by Oscar Wilde but feeling more Dickensian and ploughing its own furrow, The Selfish Giant follows two Bradford teen tearaways whose friendship has to survive poverty and adult manipulation. It hits you like a train, always feels genuine and leaves you with unforgettable imagery.
Recommended for you: Dark River (2018) Review
2. Damien Chazelle
Whiplash (2014) – La La Land (2016) – First Man (2018)
Critical darling he may be, but this not without reason as Damien Chazelle has proven himself a stylistically confident young actor’s director, working intensively with his cast and crew to produce his dazzling vision.
Chazelle has confidently tackled the musical, the biopic and Oscar-winning drama, but never presents them quite in the conventional sense. He’s romantic but a realist, so his characters usually have something fundamental missing in their lives or a nigh-on impossible dream they’re shooting for.
The one to watch: Whiplash
The presentation of the psychology of obsession marked Whiplash out, but everyone remembers the barnstorming performances, how Chazelle managed to make a student playing the drums and his teacher saying “Not quite my tempo” more unbearably tense than Neil Armstrong landing on the moon with a faulty guidance system.
Recommended for you: La La Land (2017) Review
3. Ryan Coogler
Fruitvale Station (2013) – Creed (2015) – Black Panther (2018)
Ryan Coogler’s filmmaking captures the zeitgeist. He has a vivid and distinct voice, inescapably rooted in a culture and experiences, and he never disguises it in his work, even as he has moved into the mainstream.
The deeply-held feelings in evidence in all of his work, the deconstruction of injustice and cultural bias in the American experience are presented to us in an appealing, vivid aesthetic. Michael B. Jordan has become Coogler’s figurehead, his mouthpiece to convey earnest, passionately held ideas about the world as they have both moved from the indie to the blockbuster stage.
The one to watch: Fruitvale Station
Oscar Grant’s story was one that needed to be told and should have been more widely known the world over; an injustice that needed to be given a voice. An unremarkable man seemingly living another unremarkable day in his life takes a tragic and history-shaping turn.
Recommended for you: Black Panther (2018) Review