This past month, ‘Nomadland’ director Chloé Zhao made history as the first Asian woman to walk home with the coveted Best Director Golden Globe award. Zhao was also the first woman to win this prize since Barbara Streisand was named Best Director in 1983, almost a whopping forty years ago.
Asian men and women are frequently overlooked for their talent within the film industry. This is especially unfortunate as there are (and always has been) incredible films produced by Asian directors.
In light of Zhao’s well-deserved achievement, The Miami Hurricane felt it was the perfect time to highlight some of the great work from other Asian directors in the film industry. From previously acclaimed individuals to some of the best hidden gems of East Asian cinema, below is a list of ten terrific Asian directors that deserve your attention.
Many directors can only aspire to be as successful as the ‘Sense and Sensibility’ and ‘Father Knows Best’ director. Producing films since the 1990s, Lee’s received three Academy Awards throughout his career.
Lee’s ‘Brokeback Mountain’ released in 2005 is considered to be one of the most acclaimed LGBTQ+ films ever made, and no one’s forgotten about the box office success of 2012’s ‘Life of Pi.’
We can’t celebrate Zhao’s achievements without including her on this list as well. Known primarily for her independent films, she initially gained attention for her Sundance Film Festival debut ‘Songs My Brother Taught Me.’
Her films are known for tackling deeply emotional topics, such as 2010’s ‘Daughters’ that follows the life of a 14-year-old girl escaping arranged marriage in rural China. She signed on as a director for Marvel’s new film ‘The Eternals,’ set to be released later this year.
Joon-Ho is the mastermind behind the acclaimed ‘Parasite,’ which snatched many awards in 2019 and became the highest-grossing South Korean film in history. He’s made commercial success for himself with ‘The Host’ and ‘Memories of Murder,’ and he currently is working on a sequel to ‘Parasite.’
So Yong Kim
A lesser-known Korean American independent filmmaker, Kim is one of the most authentic directors working in cinema today. Responsible for the 2008 masterpiece ‘Treeless Mountain,’ Kim has proven herself through realism and heart-breaking narratives.
Kusama, the director of one of my personal favorite thrillers on Netflix titled ‘The Invitation,’ has been directing films since the start of the century. A Japanese-American filmmaker and graduate of NYU’s Film School, she’s achieved recognition for films such as ‘Destroyer’ and ‘Girlfight.’
Wan is undoubtedly the king of Asian horror films. Known for ‘The Conjuring’ and ‘Insidious,’ Wan amassed one of the highest grossing film franchises valued at $1.9 billion.
Some of his other films worth mentioning include 2004’s ‘Saw,’ the 2018 underwater action film ‘Aquaman’ and supernatural doll thriller ‘Annabelle.’
Recognized for his distinct, artistic visuals, Kar-Wai’s 1997 creation ‘Happy Together’ was a groundbreaking moment for LGBTQ+ cinema. He’s received several Oscar nominations for his cinematic masterpieces and is a cult favorite at many international film festivals.
‘The Grace Lee Project,’ a documentary film where Lee travels the country interviewing people who share the same name as her, is an incredibly witty autobiography focused on ethnicity, identity and cultural experiences that Lee is mainly known for. Originally a journalist, she found that the stories she wanted to tell were best relayed through cinema.
Other films of Lee’s that deserve attention include ‘American Zombie,’ a mockumentary horror film focused on the civil rights of zombies, and political drama ‘Janeane from Des Moines.’
An internationally acclaimed filmmaker from South Korea, some of his most recognizable films include ‘Oldboy’ and ‘Thirst,’ the latter of which won him the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Many of his works are known for their black humor and often murderous plotlines that captivate audiences.
One of the directors at the pinnacle of Hong Kong action genre cinema is Woo. Having worked with industry legends like Nicholas Cage and John Travolta on films such as ‘Face/Off’ and ‘Mission Impossible 2,’ he has one of the most celebrated and longitudinal careers spanning more than five decades.