SBS On Demand is putting a spotlight on female directors for International Women’s Day. With a diverse collection of engrossing dramas, gripping thrillers, emotive romances and more, these directors will make you praise the female gaze.
Ally Caracatsanis

4 Mar 2020 - 1:41 PM  UPDATED 6 Mar 2020 - 10:53 AM


Newcomers to the remote town of Nathgari, Catherine (Nicole Kidman) and Matthew Parker’s (Joseph Fiennes) lives are flung into crisis when their two teenage children disappear into the remote Australian desert just before a dust storm. Suspicion is cast, rumours spread, people turn against each other and Catherine and Martin are pushed to the brink as the chance of the children’s safe return plummets each day.

In her feature directorial debut Kim Farrant said Strangerland  “is an expression of compassion and understanding for all of those who have touched the depths of despair.”

Maggie's Plan

Maggie Hardin (Greta Gerwig) is a vibrant and practical 30-something New Yorker who is successful, has great friends and decides that now is the time to have a baby. But Maggie's plan to have a baby on her own is derailed when she falls in love with John Harding (Ethan Hawke), a married man, destroying his volatile marriage to the brilliant and impossible Georgette (Julianne Moore). But one daughter and three years later, Maggie is out of love and in a slight dilemma: what do you do when you suspect your partner and his ex-wife are actually perfect for each other?

Written and directed by Rebecca Miller, Maggie’s Plan is a witty and modern romantic comedy that explores the unexpected complexities of modern romance.


Lebanese writer/director Nadine Labaki’s Academy Award nominated and Cannes Grand Jury Prize winning movie sees a 12 year old boy (Zain Al Rafeea) sue his parents for divorce. His grounds? For giving him life and bringing him into an impoverished, hard-scrabble world that drove him to crime.

“Even if through my films, Capharnaüm in particular, I portray a disturbing and raw reality, I am profoundly idealistic in as much as I believe in the power of cinema. I’m convinced that films can, if not change things, at least help to open up a debate, or make people think.” – Nadine Labaki

Nadine Labaki, on how 'Capernaum' has changed her life
The Oscar-nominated director is forever changed after making her tough hybrid fiction film about life on the streets for world weary Syrian refugee children.

52 Tuesdays

16-year-old Billie’s (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) reluctant path to independence is accelerated when her mother, James (Del Herbert-Jane) reveals plans to gender transition, and their time together becomes limited to Tuesday afternoons. Filmed over the course of a year, once a week, every week, only on Tuesdays, in chronological order- these unique film-making rules from the feature directorial debut of Sophie Hyde (Animals, The Hunting), bring a rare authenticity to this emotionally charged story of desire, responsibility and transformation.

The extraordinary story of 52 Tuesdays
The co-creator of 52 Tuesdays talks us through the process of "embracing the chaos" during the award-winning film's unique production process.

Their Finest

Directed by Lone Scherfig (An EducationTheir Finest is a film that truly celebrates the craft and collective experience of film-making. 1940, London, the Blitz and the country's morale is at stake. Catrin (Gemma Arterton) is hired to write the female dialogue or 'slop' for a film to lift the nation’s spirits - and inspire America to join the war. A witty, romantic and moving portrayal of a young woman finding her way, and her voice, in the mayhem of war… and the movies!  

“It means a lot to us as filmmakers to make a film about a period where films were as important as they were. To remind us why we spend all our adult life doing this…” - Lone Scherfig

The Piano

Jane Campion’s 1993 Academy Award and Palme d’Or winning film, The Piano, reworks a romantic tradition of landscape and story to deliver a film that has romance with grit and avoids clichés.

After a long voyage from Scotland, pianist Ada McGrath (Holly Hunter) and her young daughter, Flora (Anna Paquin), make it to the rugged forests of New Zealand's North Island with just their bags and a piano. Ada, who has been mute since childhood, has been sold into marriage to local man, Alisdair Stewart (Sam Neill). When Alisdair sells Ada's piano to George Baines (Harvey Keitel),  Ada learns she can earn it back by giving him piano lessons, but as their relationship transforms, it leads them into a dire situation.

Vanity Fair

Based on the classic Victorian novel by William Makepeace Thackery, director Mira Nair brings to the screen one of the greatest female literary characters, Becky Sharp (Reese Witherspoon). Orphaned at a young age Becky resolves to conquer English society by any means possible. When she leaves a home for girls to be a governess, she deploys all of her wit, guile, and sexuality as she makes her way up into high society during the first quarter of the 19th century. But how far will Becky go and what will she lose in order to ascend to the highest of heights in society?


From Academy Award winning director Kathryn Bigelow (so far the only woman to win the Best Director Academy Award for The Hurt Locker), Detroit tells the gripping true story of one pivotal moment during the civil unrest that rocked Detroit in the summer of ’67. Fueled by systemic discrimination, racial disparities and the Vietnam War, Detroit was in riot. The film centres around the Algiers Motel incident where police, national guards and private security forcefully and viciously interrogate motel guests about an earlier incident at the motel. By the end of the night three unarmed young men had been gunned down point blank, and several other men and women were brutally beaten.

The Breaker Upperers

Fifteen years ago, Mel (Madeleine Sami) and Jen (Jackie van Beek) discovered they were being two-timed by the same man. Bitter and cynical they became fast friends and formed The Breaker Upperers, a small-time business breaking up couples for cash. Now they’re in their late-thirties and business is booming. But when they run into an old victim, Mel develops a conscience and their friendship is truly put to the test.

A modern comedy about love – both romantic and platonic, it was written and directed by Sami and van Beek who said “We feel proud to have made a contemporary female-driven comedy that reflects the multiculturalism of the city we live in. In many ways, we feel this film gives us a voice in the ongoing conversation about 'what is love?' and 'what do women want?”

A United Kingdom

Directed by Amma Asante (Belle), A United Kingdom tells the inspiring true story of Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo), the king of Bechuanaland (modern Botswana), and Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), the London office worker that he married in 1948 in the face of fierce opposition from their families and the British and South African governments. Seretse and Ruth defied family, apartheid and empire - their love triumphed over every obstacle flung in their path and in so doing they transformed their nation and inspired the world.

Through her work Amma Asante has illustrated her in interest in stories that explore national, racial and cultural barriers and issues of social justice and equality.

Watch A United Kingdom Wednesday March 11 at 9:15PM on SBS World Movies and at SBS On Demand after broadcast. 


To celebrate International Women's Day SBS World Movies presents a collection of films from some of the world's best female directors. Women in Film - The Director's Collection Week begins with The Meddler, Sunday March 8 at 7:30PM on SBS World Movies and each night from approximately 9:30PM (please check local guides for start times).



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