Essays · Movies

The 20 Most Interesting New Filmmakers We Met in 2020

When we needed fresh perspective, these filmmakers rose to battle.
New Filmmakers 2020
By  · Published on December 28th, 2020

This article is part of our 2020 RewindFollow along as we explore the best and most interesting movies, shows, performances, and more from this very strange year. In this entry, we celebrate the most interesting new filmmakers we met in 2020.

The narrative of 2020 might dwell on what didn’t happen over the course of the year, but as we get further away from it, the story will change to the gala of voices that buoyed our spirits when they were at their lowest. An ocean of new talent arose in 2020, and their films crashed into our hearts and minds. They dispensed distraction and nutrition.

Calling many of these folks “new” is a bit inaccurate. Lots of these filmmakers stem from other regions within the industry, but in 2020, they branched out into fresh realms of creativity. These new adventures for them promise great gobs of entertainment for our future. As exciting as this batch is, what comes next from them has us epically sweaty and feverish.

In a year when we needed hope more than anything, the new filmmakers we met inspired us beyond simple anticipation. These artists offered confidence that the best is yet to come.

20. Jason Woliner (Borat Subsequent Movie Film)

Borat Subsequent Movie Film New Filmmakers

Jason Woliner has spent most of his life entrenched in the entertainment industry. He started acting at four and wandered before us as the “bratty kid” from Weekend at Bernie’s. Since then, he’s gone on to write and direct for an absurd amount of television. We’re talking everything from What We Do in the Shadows to Nathan for You to Parks and Recreation. Not to forget some killer stand-up specials like Patton Oswalt: Finest Hour and Aziz Ansari: Dangerously Delicious.

His feature directorial debut, Borat Subsequent Movie Film, feels like a bit of a gamechanger. Similar to the first movie, the sequel creates an intoxicating mixture of fictional and pseudo-Punk’d storytelling. Woliner scores horrendous amounts of laughter from our deeply troubled society and captures 2020’s Scene of the Year. It’s a horror show and a train wreck, but also the most god damn American thing we saw all year.

19. Alex Thompson (Saint Frances)

Saint Frances New Filmmakers

Saint Frances is a brutally, sincere movie (that you likely missed). It’s the saga of a woman who becomes a nanny to a precocious child after having an abortion. Alex Thompson, in collaboration with star and screenwriter Kelly O‚ÄôSullivan, weaves a complicated quilt of emotions. The film never condemns its lead, managing to honor her scuffle with self. We’re all trying to do the best we can. Doubt is essential to the process of life. Just keep swimming.

18. Sue Kim (Speed Cubers)

Speed Cubers New Filmmakers

Sue Kim is the global marketing executive producer responsible for the recent rebrand of KFC as well as numerous commercial overhauls over at Nike, Adidas, and Wieden + Kennedy. After her son entered a speedcubing competition in Oregon, Kim developed an obsession. Her fascination brought her to the complicated relationship between competitors Feliks Zemdegs and Max Park, and a mission to contain their unbelievable warm rivalry into a thirty-nine-minute documentary (now streaming on Netflix).

Speed Cubers achieves tremendous humanity within a niche environment. In the telling, Kim unlocks the sport’s appeal, but more significantly, she celebrates Zemdegs and Park’s glorious bond. Their connection provides a guide for the rest of us. Observe those around you; marvel in their gifts.

17. Ross Stewart (Wolfwalkers)

Wolfwalkers New Filmmakers

Ross Stewart has thrived in the background of several brilliant works of animation: The Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea, ParaNorman. Directing and scripting alongside Tomm Moore, Will Collins, and Jericca Cleland, he elevated the studio Cartoon Saloon to heights that were already pretty darn high. Wolfwalkers is a stupendously inventive animated adventure (one of the best films of the year) set against the English invasion of Ireland. Not only does the film bring another morsel of untapped folklore to the screen, but it also does so in a fluid form. The artistic style is constantly shifting to match the characters’ emotions, highlighting the many abilities the medium offers.

16. Florian Zeller (The Father)

The Father New Filmmakers

Florian Zeller is already a master craftsman. His novels and plays always dominate the conversation, but the task of translating your own stage work to the screen could easily prove disastrous. While many still wait to see The Father, thanks to this year’s bonkers distribution calendar, I’m here to tell you that it is easily one of the year’s finest accomplishments. The adaptation embraces all the cinematic tools available and avoids the claustrophobic trap of a theater experience boxed into a television. The Father‘s interpretation of Alzheimer’s is unlike any other we’ve seen before and furnishes us with a showstopping performance from Anthony Hopkins.

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Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)