Who Are the 12 Greatest Directors You've Never Heard About?

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Who are the directors that may have impacted your life without you knowing it? 

We all know the names of the greatest directors. You've got your Spielberg, Scorsese, Spike Lee, Nora Ephron, Agnes Varda, Fellini, Truffaut, Welles, Capra, Hitchcock, Kurosawa, Bigelow, and Fincher. We could make a list of hundreds of them, and we could argue the order back and forth. 

But what about the directors you've never heard of? 

They are the ones who inspired many of the names above and the ones who continue to create movies and shorts to this day, without the fame or recognition they probably deserve. Today I wanted to look at a video by The Cinema Cartography where they list the greatest directors you've never heard of. I also added one of my own at the end for you viewing pleasure. 

So check out the video and let's chat after the jump. 

Who Are the 12 Greatest Directors You've Never Heard About? 

1. Lav Diaz

Lav Dia is a Filipino filmmaker and critic who is one of the key purveyors of the "slow cinema" movement. He's also credited with making some of the longest narrative films in existence. Diaz is a creator who is constantly switching genres of his projects and experimenting all the time. 

On the topic of genre Diaz has said, "it’s nice to dwell on genres because there are formulas there and you can work with them. But at the same time you’re free to break them."

Check out his film Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino (Evolution of a Filipino Family). It's only 625 minutes long! 

2. Andrzej Żuławski 

Andrzej Żuławski was a Polish film director and writer. He passed in 2016, but his legacy lives on inside his work. Żuławski often went against mainstream commercialism in his films and enjoyed success with European art-house audiences.

One of his movies, The Devil (1972), was banned in Poland. He was known for the violence and emotion at the core of his work. It contained a lot of controversial images and stories. 

3. Maya Deren 

If you've been to film school, I can almost guarantee you have seen Meshes of the Afternoon. But I put a link below just in case.

Deren was one of the pioneers of avant-garde cinema in the 1940s and 1950s. She did it all. She was known for writing, producing, directing, editing, and photographing all of her work, with only a little help from Hella Heyman, her camera operator.

Deren once said this of Hollywood, "Artistic freedom means that the amateur filmmaker is never forced to sacrifice visual drama and beauty to a stream of words... to the relentless activity and explanations of a plot... nor is the amateur production expected to return profit on a huge investment by holding the attention of a massive and motley audience for 90 minutes... Instead of trying to invent a plot that moves, use the movement of wind, or water, children, people, elevators, balls, etc. as a poem might celebrate these. And use your freedom to experiment with visual ideas; your mistakes will not get you fired."

Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=KamHwKHg64o

4. Glauber Rocha 

Glauber Rocha was a Brazilian film directoractor, and screenwriter. His work was avant-garde and experimental in nature, and he was a seminal figure of the new wave.

His works are noted for their many political overtones, often addressing the passive-aggressive situation of the Third World. His films Black God, White Devil and Entranced Earth are often considered to be two of the greatest achievements in Brazilian cinematic history. 

5. Theo Angelopoulos 

Theodoros "TheoAngelopoulos was a Greek filmmakerscreenwriter, and film producer.

Theo's films are characterized by long takes and complex yet carefully composed scenes.

Martin Scorsese once said of the filmmaker, "He really understands how to control the frame. There are sequences in his work—the wedding scene in The Suspended Step of the Stork, the rape scene in Landscape in the Mist, or any given scene in The Traveling Players—where the slightest movement, the slightest change in distance, sends reverberations through the film and through the viewer. The total effect is hypnotic, sweeping, and profoundly emotional. His sense of control is almost otherworldly."

6. Matsumoto Toshio

Toshio Matsumoto (松本 俊夫, or Matsumoto Toshio) was a Japanese film director and video artist

His most famous film is Funeral Parade of Roses (Bara no soretsu). The film was loosely inspired by Oedipus Rex, featuring a cross-dresser trying to move up in the world of Tokyo Hostess clubs.

He was incredibly prolific, with more than 30 experimental movies, documentaries, and videos under his belt. 

7. Larisa Shepitiko 

Larisa Efimovna Shepitko was a Soviet film directorscreenwriter, and actress. Her work has been lauded for its depictions of isolation and loneliness, which came from a very personal place for her.

She once said, "My father fought all through the war. To me, the war was one of the most powerful early impressions. I remember the feeling of life upset, the family separated. I remember hunger and how our mother and us, the three children, were evacuated. The impression of a global calamity certainly left an indelible mark in my child's mind."

Her motto was, "Make every film as if it's your last."

8. Nagisa Ōshima

Nagisa Ōshima was a Japanese film director and screenwriter.

His work was diverse, focusing on many of his experiences and walks of life. His film, In the Realm of the Senses, was a sexually explicit visit to the 1930s Japan. He followed that with Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, about World War II prisoners of war held by the Japanese. He won the best director award at Cannes in 1978 for Empire of Passion.

People have studied his films with a focus on politics, pornography, and Japanese culture. 

9. Stan Brakhage 

James Stanley Brakhage, better known as Stan, was an American non-narrative filmmaker. He greatly influenced modern-day experimental film.

Even people not interested in non-narrative have heard of Stan Brakhage. Again, he's ubiquitous with other film school names. When I was in film school, I was taught an entire unit where we would imitate his best works. That meant gluing objects to film leader and painting cells in order to express emotions and to make our very own experimental films. I was terrible at it, and it made me appreciate him all the more.

You can see his influence from the Seven opening titles to the crucifixion scene of The Last Temptation of Christ. In fact, Scorsese has some of Brakhage film cells on the wall of his office. 

10. Djibril Diop Mambéty

Djibril Diop Mambéty was a Senegalese film director, actor, orator, composer, and poet.

Unlike some of the other names on this list, film wasn't his life. In fact, he made only two feature films and five short films. Still, they received international acclaim for their original and experimental cinematic technique and non-linear, unconventional narrative style.

His first film, Touki Bouki, screened at Cannes. Mambéty's films explore power, wealth, and delusion. 

"The only truly consistent, unaffected people in the world, for whom every morning brings the same question: how to preserve what is essential to themselves," Mambéty said.

11. František Vláčil

František Vláčil was a Czech film director, painter, and graphic artist. 

His films are well known for extraordinarily high art quality. In 1998, Vláčil was voted the greatest Czech director of all time by a poll of Czech film critics. He was prolific, directing features and shorts almost every active working year he was alive. 

His film Marketa Lazarová is considered by some critics to be the best Czech film ever made. 

12. Don Hertzfeldt 

This name wasn't in the video, but this is a director I think we all should celebrate.

Unlike many on this list, Hertzfeldt is alive, well, and creating. Hertzfeldt is an American animator, writer, and independent filmmaker. He is a two-time Academy Award nominee who is best known for the animated films It's Such a Beautiful Day, the World of Tomorrow series, and Rejected

In 2020, GQ described his work as "simultaneously tragic and hilarious and philosophical and crude and deeply sad and fatalist and yet stubbornly, resolutely hopeful." In 2014, Time Out New York ranked It's Such a Beautiful Day as number 16 on its list of the "100 Best Animated Movies Ever Made," and in 2016, The Film Stage critics ranked the film #1 on their list of "The 50 Best Animated Films of the 21st Century Thus Far."

I've seen Hertzfeldt speak, and his passion for cinema, emotion, and character are something that can inspire all of us. 

Who are the directors you think should have made this list? 

Let us know in the comments! 

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