‘The Lost Daughter’
Maggie Gyllenhaal lined up a stellar cast that includes Olivia Colman, Dakota Johnson, Ed Harris, Jessie Buckley and Peter Sarsgaard for her directorial debut, “The Lost Daughter”. Adapting Elena Ferrante’s novel for the Netflix film, Gyllenhaal has been wowing critics and audiences alike with her debut feature, earning the film a place on several critics’ circle best of the year lists and award wins.
Say his name if you dare. Nia DaCosta deepened the horror franchise mythology of the Candyman with Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in the lead. The film earned praise from critics and horror fans for exploring not just gentrification, but Black folklore, history and appropriation. And some bloody, creepy scares, of course.
Canadian director Danis Goulet’s post-apocalyptic drama about a Cree woman who joins a resistance movement against the military government in order to save her daughter was named one of Canada’s top 10 movies of the year by TIFF. Arriving in theatres in October, “Night Raiders” also made history as widest opening of any film by an Indigenous director in Canadian film history.
‘The Power Of The Dog’
Jane Campion writes and directs “The Power Of The Dog”, one of 2021’s best films. Brought to life on screen by a powerhouse cast that includes Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee, the Netflix movie is already heating up awards season and cementing itself as a top Oscars contender.
French director Julia Ducournau’s edgy body horror “Titane” earned her the Cannes Film Festival’s top award, the Palme d’Or -- making her only the second woman to do so (Jane Campion was the first). Not bad for what is only her second feature film.
A true nail-biter, “The Rescue” by directing duo Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin chronicles the dramatic 2018 rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach trapped deep inside a flooded cave in Thailand. Taking a look at the against-the-odds rescue, the National Geographic documentary earned the People’s Choice Award for documentary at TIFF.
Courtesy of Sundance Institute
Breakout Sundance Film Festival hit “CODA” written and directed by Sian Heder is a coming-of-age dramedy about a young woman (Emilia Jones) – the child of deaf adults – who is torn between living out her dreams and supporting her family in the dramedy. Following its debut on Apple TV+, the streamer picked up the film for distribution for a record-setting $25 million, before the film went on to win the Grand Jury Prize, Dramatic Audience Award and Ensemble Cast Award at Sundance.
Emily V. Aragones/Netflix
Another of the year’s best films and awards contenders, Rebecca Hall writes, directs and produces “passing”. Starring Ruth Negga and Tessa Thompson as two Black women in 1920s Harlem who are each living on one side of the colour divide, with one “passing” as white. Just days after its premiere at the Sundance Film festival, Netflix acquired the film for distribution with critics praising the performances of the two leads and Hall’s subtle and effective direction.
‘The Matrix Resurrections’
Nearly 20 years later, it’s time to go back to the Matrix. Lana Wachowski directs “The Matrix Resurrections”, a direct sequel to 2003’s “The Matrix Revolutions”. Reuniting Canadian co-stars Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss, as well as Jada Pinkett-Smith, the new entry into the franchise ups the stakes and the scale to deliver a new mind-bending sci-fi story that’s even more epic than the previous films.
Courtesy of Sundance Institute
2021 was the year for actresses stepping behind the camera. Robin Wright directs herself in the drama “Land”, a story about a woman who retreats into the wilderness following a tragedy in her personal life. Filmed on location on Moose Mountain in Kananaskis Country in Alberta, the movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival with critics praising the film for its stunning vistas and Wright’s performance both in front of and behind the camera.
‘Street Gang: How We Got To Sesame Street’
Equally enlightening and entertaining, director Mariyln Agrelo’s documentary “Street Gang: How We Got To Sesame Street” captures the groundbreaking creation and legacy of “Sesame Street”. Filled with interviews from the seminal children’s series’ performers and behind-the-scenes creatives and executives, the doc is one of the year’s most feel-god nostalgia fests.
Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff finally got her origin story. Directed by Cate Shortland, “Black Widow” was the third highest-grossing movie of 2021 and the biggest box office earner directed by a woman.