5. Xavier Dolan
At 27, Xavier Dolan is one of the youngest on this list, but also one of the veterans. He has directed six films since his debut in 2009 (at 20 years old!) with I Killed My Mother, the harrowing story of a gay boy’s relationship with his mom. Somewhat raw and maybe more moving because of it, I Killed My Mother didn’t previewed Dolan’s further aesthetic extravagances, like Heartbeats and Mommy, both delicious experiments in filmmaking as much as they are explorations of Dolan’s favorite themes.
Laurence Anyways and Tom at the Farm seem to be his more intimate projects, though they don’t lack in conviction and ambition, chasing the ghost of great LGBT-themed filmmakers (Fassbinder and Almodóvar among them) in an active way and daring the spectator to condemn him for it. Sometimes calls an enfant terrible, Dolan’s more of a golden boy of French-Canadian cinema, and probably the most exciting young filmmaker for the masses right now.
4. Hannah Fidell
Indie darling Hannah Fidell has also turned 30 this year, and even though she’s probably going to keep a low profile and not do a big blockbuster, she’s a talent worth looking out for. Her barely seen debut We’re Glad You’re Here introduces her intimate style and mostly improvised dialogues, but controversy-filled A Teacher, from 2013, really comes back swinging, telling the story of a high school student wrapped in a relationship with a student.
2015’s 6 Years, starring Taissa Farmiga and Ben Rosenfield, follows a similar style and gets involved in equally interesting themes of affection, attachment and maturity, anchored by genuine performances by both actors, but especially by Fidell’s ability to make realistic human interaction fascinating for all its hidden complexities, every one of them not spelled out, but carefully observed by the director’s camera.
3. David Lowery
A much more contemplative talent than most of the directors on this list, Lowery is a director from the old-school manners of Coppola and Malick, and a longtime indie favorite in the editing area before turning into a feature director in St. Nick (2009), at the age of 28. The delicate story of two young siblings on the run was warmly received by critics, but stands today as a true first taste of his melodic, poignantly emotional and moody work, better displayed in his next venture, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.
Painfully beautiful in its photography, soundtrack and brilliant, understated performances, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is something truly special because of Lowery’s deft touch for atmosphere and his uncanny ability to convey his characters’ feeling in more than just his actor’s faces.
Everything in Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, and even in his first blockbuster (this year’s Pete’s Dragons) seems to be constructed around an emotional map for the story. Used in the right stories, he can be tremendously effective.
2. Ryan CooglerRyan’s just turned 30 years old in May, and he’s gearing up for his first huge blockbuster in 2018, Marvel’s Black Panther. It’s an exciting prospect because he’s shown tremendous competence in making big stories intimate with last year’s Creed, which revived the Rocky franchise in the best way possible and told a truly worthy, moving story. Black Panther is one of the most interesting and subversive heroes in Marvel’s lore, and the choice of Coogler is truly an inspired one for it.
Even before Creed, though, he already stepped into the spotlight with his debut feature, Fruitvale Station (27 years old), a powerful urban tale starring Michael B. Jordan, Coogler’s and virtually everyone in the business right now’s favorite actor, as a young man crossing paths with different people on the last day of 2008. Tremendously well-directed performances and harrowing narrative are Coogler’s mark, and we can’t wait to see more of it.
1. Damien Chazelle
At 31 years old completed this last December, Chazelle already has an Oscar nominated script to his name in Whiplash, and a fair share of the public thinks he should’ve been nominated for direction too. After a barely seen, but tremendously good debut in Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, in 2009 (at 24 years old), Chazelle did a few films as only screenwriter before taking on the challenge of making his short Whiplash into his second feature.
For anyone who’s seen it, it’s obvious why Chazelle deserves a place on this list. His rhythm, narrative strength, tremendous visual sensibility, and great hand for character development are the marks of a future master in formation.
The prospect of seeing him directing an all-out musical in this year’s La La Land, already highly praised in Venice, is exciting for the genre in a way that we’ve not seen since Baz Luhrmann brought it back with Moulin Rouge!.
Author Bio: Caio Coletti is a Brazilian-born journalist, a proud poptimist, and has too many opinions to keep them all to himself.