Europe's Young Masters: 15 Up-and-Coming Filmmakers to Watch

6:30 AM 9/19/2016

by Scott Roxborough

These hot directors and producers are turning the Old World upside down with a whole new approach to movie-making: "My main characters are always monsters."

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images; Aurelie Lamachere/SIPA/Newscom; Araya Diaz/WireImage

(Pictured from left: Laszlo Nemes, Julia Ducournau and Toby Haynes)

  • Maren Ade

    Director, 39, Germany

    Hannes Magerstaedt/WireImage

    Nobody has ever accused Ade of rushing. Her most recent film, Everyone Else, about the breakdown of a long-term relationship, was released seven years ago (when it won Berlin's Jury Grand Prix). The film before that, The Forest for the Trees, was 13 years ago (when it won the Special Jury Award at Sundance). Ade's new movie, Toni Erdmann, a tragicomedy about an estranged father and daughter trying to reconnect as adults, was one of the best reviewed movies out of Cannes (Sony Pictures Classics picked up distribution in the U.S.; it opens Christmas Day) and has been selected as Germany's candidate for 2017's best foreign-language film Oscar. Ade often is referred to as a "feminist" filmmaker, but she dismisses the label. "I don't know if the main characters in my films have much in common besides being women," she says. "If they all sat together on a bench, I think they wouldn't have much to say to each other."

  • Jonas Bagger

    Producer, 37, Sweden

    Fred Hayes/WireImage

    He's Lars von Trier's newest producer — undoubtedly one of the more challenging jobs in Europe — working on the notorious director's next movie, The House That Jack Built, a serial-killer thriller told from the point of view of the murderer. But he's been at Zentropa, von Trier's production house, since 2009, teaming with different directors on a slew of other pictures, such as The Keeper of Lost Causes and The Absent One, two of the highest-grossing Danish titles of all time (each made $11 million in Denmark, a country of just 5.6 million). "Filmmaking is just addictive for me," says Bagger. "I wish I knew that when I started."

  • Catherine Bozorgan

    Producer, 36, France

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    As the head of Manchester Films, Bozorgan has helped produce such French hits as The Clink of Ice, Rue Mandar and Love Is in the Air. But she is equally well-known as the producing partner of French film star, writer and director Albert Dupontel (their latest, The First, The Last, won two prizes at the Berlin Film Festival in February). The two met in 2005, while Bozorgan, then in her mid-20s, was working as a financial director at a production company, and Dupontel asked her to read one of his scripts. She since has become integral to his filmmaking, taking part in writing, shooting and editing, along with dealing with the financial aspects of his productions. "It is a mixture of infinite patience and extreme urgency," she says when describing the job of producing. "Every director has his own pace."

  • Julia Ducournau

    Director, 32, France

    Aurelie Lamachere/SIPA/Newscom

    The daughter of two doctors, Ducournau helms films consumed with the frailties of the flesh — sometimes literally. Her big-screen debut, Raw, about two cannibal sisters, took home the international critics' prize at Cannes this year. Before that, she made a 2012 bulimia black comedy called Mange (Eat) for a European cable network. "It's the old story of how we'd all like to be eternal, and we're stuck here with a bad case of stomach flu," she says of her fascination with bodily malfunctions. "My main characters are always monsters, but for me it gets interesting when the character is someone you would normally feel repulsed by on a moral level."

  • Severin Fiala

    Director, 31, Austria

    AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis

    Fiala honed his cinematic aesthetic while attending film school in Austria — and also while baby-sitting for his aunt, a young screenwriter with a new baby who happened to have an extensive VHS library, including Starship Troopers. "I love Paul Verhoeven's amazing mise en scene and his dark and humorous view on our world," Fiala tells THR. That same aunt, Veronika Franz, eventually would become Fiala's writing and directing partner, and the two would put their own dark and humorous point of view on the screen with 2014's Goodnight Mommy, a hit on the thriller-fantasy circuit about twin boys who believe the woman who comes home after a face-lift is not their real mother. Up next: Fiala and Franz will tell the tale of a true-life 18th century serial killer.

  • Undine Filter

    Producer, 44, Germany

    Clemens Bilan/Getty Images

    As a junior producer, she has had credits on everything from Olivier Assayas' Golden Globe-winning miniseries Carlos to Christopher Smith's medieval action movie Black Death (featuring a pre-Oscar Eddie Redmayne). But in 2010, she opened her own company, Departures Films, where she has been working with young European filmmakers such as Andrea Sedlackova (Fair Play), Elena Hazanov (The Puppet Syndrome) and Thomas Stuber (his debut, A Heavy Heart, premiered to critical raves at 2015's Toronto Film Festival). The one person she most wants to make a movie with? "Mads Mikkelsen! Call me if you need a German co-producer."

  • Felix van Groeningen

    Director, 38, Belgium

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    Nobody has done more to make Belgium sexy than this scruffy filmmaker. His latest, Belgica, about two brothers who run a super-hot nightclub in Ghent, won the best directing prize at Sundance this year. Before that, he won the audience award at the 2013 Berlin Film Festival for The Broken Circle Breakdown, a relationship drama with a religious twist (he's a romantic atheist; she's a religious realist), and in 2009, his 1980s-set The Misfortunates ended up as Belgium's official Oscar submission. Initially, Groeningen thought about becoming an actor, not a director. "But," he says, "I'm too shy and just not good enough."

  • Toby Haynes

    Director, 38, United Kingdom

    Araya Diaz/WireImage/Getty Images

    He has directed some of the U.K.'s most recognized television — episodes of Sherlock and Doctor Who — and in 2015, he made a major splash with the seven-part BBC series Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which earned multiple BAFTA nominations. For his first big-screen project, he's taking on one of the great icons of the British empire: Oliver Twist. Teaming with Working Title and acclaimed theater producer Cameron Mackintosh, he'll be giving Lionel Bart's classic musical Oliver! — based, of course, on Charles Dickens' even more classic novel — a cinematic update. The most recent big-screen adaptation of the musical from 1968, though, is a pretty tough act to top; it won six Oscars, including best picture and best director for Carol Reed. "I feel privileged," he says, bravely.

  • Mikkel Jersin

    Producer, 35, Denmark

    Juan Naharro Gimenez/WireImage

    With degrees from Copenhagen Business School and Denmark's National Film School, Jersin is both a right- and left-brain producer — although he prefers the right. "I spend way too much time financing and way too little time being the creative producer I want to be," he says. "My key strength lies in the development phase — the tiresome financing work can really be a party killer at times." He manages to get it done anyway, producing such films as Runar Runarsson's Sparrows and Joachim Trier's English-language debut, Louder Than Bombs, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Gabriel Byrne. In summer 2015, Jersin opened his own production company, Snowglobe.

  • Michel Merkt

    Producer, 43, Switzerland

    Getty Images

    He started out in law school (briefly), then spent time as a journalist and film critic and now is one of Europe's most influential producers of quality art house films — such as David Cronenberg's Map to the Stars, Anton Corbijn's Life and Miguel Gomes' Arabian Nights. This year, he had eight titles at Cannes, including Paul Verhoeven's Elle, Maren Ade's Toni Erdmann and the Swiss animated feature My Life as a Zucchini, which is Switzerland's official entry for the 2017 foreign-language Oscar. Still, he hasn't forgotten his legal roots. "The first person to hire on a film is a lawyer," he says.

  • Laszlo Nemes

    Director, 39, Hungary

    Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

    His debut feature — 2015's concentration camp drama Son of Saul — won a Grand Prix at Cannes, a Golden Globe and an Oscar. But Nemes, the son of acclaimed Hungarian filmmaker Andras Jeles, has been making movies since he was a teenager, shooting horror flicks in his basement in Paris (his father moved the family from Budapest to France when Nemes was 12). "There was tremendous resistance in France [to Son of Saul]," says the director, noting how he was turned down for financing by every French bank (he ended up getting the film's budget from the Hungarian National Film Fund). Next up: a Budapest-set period drama titled Sunset.

  • Lucas Ochoa

    Producer, 35, United Kingdom

    Courtesy of Pulse Films

    When London-based Pulse Films decided to make the jump from music videos and TV commercials to scripted features, it put Ochoa in charge of making it happen. So far, so good, with Pulse having a hand in indie hit The Witch and festival darling American Honey. Ochoa is developing such titles as High Dive, based on the IRA's failed 1984 assassination attempt of Margaret Thatcher, and Post, a postapocalyptic thriller by the directors who made Pulse's hit LCD Soundsystem doc, Shut Up and Play the Hits. His love affair with film began at age 10, when his family bought a used VCR and a collection of previously owned videos. "I'd watch Jaws with my best friend after school for years," he remembers. "We loved the final act, so we would just skip to that bit."

  • Lena Schomann

    Producer, 36, Germany

    Target Presse Agentur Gmbh/WireImage

    She might be the only person ever to strike it rich betting on the sense of humor of the German people. Her last two films, the 2013 high school comedy Fack ju Gohte (Suck Me Shakespeer) and its 2015 sequel, Fack ju Gohte 2, have grossed close to $150 million in Europe, sold virtually everywhere else and even inspired a Spanish-language remake, No Manches Frida (No Way, Frida), which opened in the U.S. via Lionsgate on Sept. 2 and already has grossed more than $5 million. Schomann cut her teeth working at Rat Pack, a Munich-based production house run by genre expert Christian Becker, helping produce films such as Turkish for Beginners. But comedy isn't her only interest. In fact, the one person she most wants to work with is veteran German director Doris Dorrie. "The moment I watched [Dorrie's 2008 drama] Cherry Blossoms with my parents, I cried and fell in love with her work."

  • Celine Sciamma

    Director, 35, France

    Larry Busacca/Getty Images

    Nobody does the female coming-of-age story better. Her last film, 2014's Girlhood, set in Paris' racially segregated suburbs, earned her four Cesar nominations (France's Oscar). Before that, 2011's Tomboy, about a girl living as a boy, won a Teddy at the Berlin Film Festival (given to the best picture with LGBT themes). Her debut, Water Lillies — her final project while attending France's prestigious La Femis film school — won the 2008 Cesar for best debut. But she says she's done, for now, with female sexual-awakening tales. Instead, she's branching out as a screenwriter for hire, writing Andre Techine's Being 17 (a male sexual-awakening story about two gay teens).