I honestly couldn’t tell you if Julia Ducournau and Ninja Thyberg have ever met. If not, can I moderate an interview with the two of them….pretty please? They have a lot in common that we could discuss.
In 2021 I saw 245 new movies. These two women each directed a movie on my Top 10 List of 2021.
Both directed very strong, and at times, unsettling movies.
Ducournau became the second female director to win the coveted Palme D’Or award from the Cannes Film Festival for her film Titane. Titane is unlike anything you have ever seen. I had the good fortune to see it in person with an audience at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film wowed the TIFF crowd and won the People’s Choice Award for the Midnight Madness category. I don’t even know how to describe it. A musical? A serial killer story? Story of lost family? If I was to use one word it would be brilliant.
Thyberg directed a movie called Pleasure. Pleasure is a film that explores the adult film world. We meet a character who dreams of becoming the next big porn star. One of many the things about this film that I found interesting was when the main character was trying to establish herself, the question that kept coming up was ‘How many followers do you have? How many ‘likes’? We have seen films about this industry before but none as raw and accurate as Pleasure.
Both directors also cast very impressive actresses in their leads and both were unknown. Agathe Rousselle in Titane and Sofia Kappel in Pleasure.
When I look at my Top 10 list I would credit Denis VIllenueve to being the new master of IMAX (Dune), I would say Sean Baker does such a great job of connecting to humanist stories (Red Rocket) and Sian Heder flat out made the best movie of 2021 (CODA) but if I was going to talk about breakout directors of 2021 these two rise to the top.
Their unflinching directing, their ability to get the best out of their lead actresses who aren’t well known, not to mention the cast overall, this was extremely impressive.
We talk about ‘glass ceilings’ and the limitations that are put on people because of their ethnicity, their sex, their sexual preference etc. 2021 was the year these two women took a sledgehammer to that ‘glass ceiling’ and went through it.
Unfortunately ‘Oscar’ won’t call their name in 2022 but that’s not the point.
Let me be clear, these movies aren’t going to appeal to everyone. They are both hard to watch at times but both very authentic.
These two exceptional filmmakers created strong cinema that has stayed with me months after seeing it. Stayed with me because I knew then and know now I saw something special.
Julia Ducournau and Ninja Thyberg are part of a new crop of filmmakers who are breaking the norm. They left an enviable mark on movies in 2021 with their projects and these are the reasons why I find them fascinating.