10 Emerging Indie Directors to Keep Your Eyes On


Are you someone who likes to know what’s new and fresh and happening right now in the world of indie film? If you are, you’ll be glad to hear that Filmmaker Magazine just announced this year’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film. We’ve selected 10 directors from the list who have a recently completed or just-around-the-corner project for you to get your hands and eyes on. Most directors in this year’s roundup deal with the miserable, horrific, and tragic aspects of being human, but the films themselves are never without life.

1. Danfung Dennis

Danfung Dennis has a simple plan when it comes to making documentary war films: turn the camera on and embed yourself in the action. A photojournalist turned director, Dennis has been covering the conflict in Afghanistan since 2006. He is presently finishing production on his first feature, Hell and Back Again, a doc about an American soldier who is forced to adjust to life back home after receiving near-fatal injuries in the field.

2. Rebecca Richman Cohen

Punishing the perpetrators of past atrocities is a noble endeavor, but not an easy one to pull off. Director Rebecca Richman Cohen addresses this problem in her new film, War Don Don, about the civil war in Sierra Leone. Cohen follows those who seek justice in its wake as this ongoing battle spills into the courtroom. HBO will broadcast the film on September 29.

3. Sean Durkin

Sean Durkin blames a year he spent living in the English countryside as an 11-year-old for elevating his feelings of fear and anxiety. Now, as an adult, he likes to explore these emotions in his films. Durkin won the short film prize at the 2010 Cannes’ Directors Fortnight for his film Mary Last Seen that involves a girlfriend who trusts her boyfriend too much. His next project, Martha Marcy May Marlene, is a feature-length film about cults, which begins where Mary Last Seen ends.

4. Alex Jablonski & Michael Totten

The origin of Alex Jablonski and Michael Totten’s project, Sparrow Songs, was simple: make a short documentary every month for a year. They’re now a few months away from completing their goal. Whether it’s employees in a doughnut shop, caretakers at a home for the mentally ill, or porn stars singing karaoke, Jablonski and Totten handle all their subjects with respect and dignity.

5. Adam Bowers

Adam Bowers embodies the indie spirit in his first film New Low by writing, producing, directing, editing, and starring in it. The romantic-comedy about a lonely and somewhat dimwitted man who finds himself in a love triangle is unique because it relies on Bowers idiosyncratic humor. In a review by Variety, John Anderson writes: “Whatever happens, the movie smells like a cult hit.”

6. Rashaad Ernesto Green

Actor turned director, Rashaad Ernesto Green, likes to explore issues pertaining to the Bronx because he comes from the Bronx. After earning MFAs from both NYU’s Graduate Acting Program and Graduate Film Program, Green’s Premature won the Grand Jury Prize in the HBO Short Film Competition at the 2008 American Black Film Festival. Although the trailer doesn’t reveal much, the film is about a Bronx teenager who must decide what route to take now that she’s pregnant with an unwanted child. Green is currently working on his first feature, Gun Hill Road.

7. Jason Byrne

Director Jason Byrne doesn’t just make visually stunning abstract films about big boats destined for destruction; he also works as an audio/visual archivist for the United Nations Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. For Scrap Vessel, Byrne and another camera operator boarded the ship in Singapore and captured as much of the journey as possible until the trip ended on a beach in Bangladesh, where the boat was taken apart and melted down. Now nothing remains of this ship except for the film.

8. Brent Stewart

The Colonel’s Bride is Brent Stewart’s first feature-length film, and it took a while to catch on. Stewart received nothing but letters of rejection from film festivals until the Sarasota Film Festival accepted it. The film is about a Vietnam vet who hopes a mail-order bride will relieve him from his pain and loneliness, and abusive drinking and smoking. Stewart hopes this positive momentum will propel his film into future success.

9. Matt Porterfield

Baltimore-native Matt Porterfield’s second film, Putty Hill, depicts the aftermath of a young man’s death. The official site states: “On the eve of his funeral, family and friends gather to commemorate his life. Their shared memories paint a portrait of a community hanging in the balance, skewed by poverty, city living, and a generational divide, united in their pursuit of a new American Dream.” What this new American Dream is exactly isn’t quite clear, unless it simply is a dream of survival.

10. Sultan Sharrief

A black Muslim high-school student enters an ice-carving competition to earn the scholarship he needs to attend the University of Michigan against his parents’ will? This unusual plot is the true-life story of director Sultan Sharrief, who took a risk at improving his life despite the tensions between education and religion, community values and personal mobility. Bilal’s Stand was filmed in Detroit and screened at both Sundance and the Berlin Film Festival.