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Born in Ireland, Lenny Abrahamson started shooting shorts while studying philosophy at Trinity College, Dublin. After a period of post-graduate study in philosophy at Stanford University in California, he returned home to concentrate on filmmaking. 'What Richard Did' (2011) and 'Frank' (2014) are his most recognised films.
Fatih Akin was born in 1973 in Hamburg to Turkish parents. He studied Visual Communications at Hamburg's College of Fine Arts where he wrote and directed several award-winning shorts. His 2003 feature 'Gegen Die Wand' won the Berlinale Golden Bear, as well as Best Film at the German and European Film Awards.
Haifaa Al Mansour, born in 1974, is the first female filmmaker in Saudi Arabia. Her award-winning documentary, 'Women Without Shadows', inspired a new movement of independent filmmaking in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. She is famous for penetrating the wall of silence surrounding the lives of Saudi women and providing a platform for their unheard voices. The BAFTA nominated 'Wadjda' (2012) was her first feature film.
His early films were slapstick, his work rate is prodigious, his more recent output is varied, but no one can deny Woody Allen's position as an auteur and one of the most important American directors since the 1970s. His greatest film is open to debate, but he has long reckoned it to be his lovely, bittersweet 1985 comedy drama 'The Purple Rose of Cairo'.
He ranks alongside Luis Buñuel as the greatest Spanish filmmaker. His exploration of gender and 'women's films' is second to none. His mastery of form is breathtaking. And his love of cinema is palpable in almost every frame he shoots.
Roy Andersson was born in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1943. 'A Swedish Love Story' (1970) was his first feature film after he graduated from the Swedish Film Institute, and won numerous prizes at the Berlin Film Festival. Andersson's stylistic trademark is defined by slapstick absurdist comedy, which grotesquely caricatures Swedish stereotypes and culture.
Gregg Araki grew up in south California, and from a very young age was drawn to the visual arts, comics and pop music. He graduated in Film Studies from the University of Santa Barbara, and received his Masters in Film Production from USC. He has garnered a strong reputation for his uncompromising, nonconformist attitude and his films are often subversive and filled with despairing black humour.
Andrea Arnold went from being an actor on British children's television to an Oscar and Cannes-winning filmmaker with apparent ease. Her films are visceral and beautiful, ramshackle yet carefully constructed, and possess a breathtaking emotional volatility. 'Wasp' (2003) won an Academy Award for Best Short Film. Set on an English council estate, it is both angry and tender as it details a young single mother's attempts to re-connect with the world outside her flat. A collaboration with Lars von Trier on a project led to 'Red Road' (2006), about a grieving woman who works in a CCTV surveillance room. Stylish and often discomforting in tone, Arnold's skill with actors is revealed through Kate Dickie's extraordinary performance. For 'Fish Tank' (2009), Arnold cast Katie Jarvis, whom she encountered on the street, in the lead role. Her intuition paid off, as it would with Sasha Lane in 'American Honey' (2016). Jarvis is a time bomb in the film – as a young girl who wants more out of life. The canvass for 'American Honey' is larger but Sasha Lane's character in the film echoes Mia's in 'Fish Tank'. But the film's expansiveness allows Arnold to explore the notion of Americana and youthful abandon in great depth, highlighting the importance of her relationship with regular cinematographer Robbie Ryan. He also worked with Arnold on the critically divisive 'Wuthering Heights' (2011). Though Arnold's casting choices didn't work out so well on this film, the sense of place and the grime and ever-present decay of 19th century rural English life is palpable. Outside of film, Arnold's recent sojourn in the US also saw her direct episodes of 'Transparent' and 'I Love Dick'.
Olivier Assayas was born in 1955 in Paris. His father, the director Raymond Assayas, helped him find a job in the film industry by giving him various screenwriting jobs. He started directing in 1986 as well as writing for the legendary French film magazine, Cahiers du Cinéma. After a series of his successful films screened in Cannes, he became a member of the festival's jury in 2011.