9 Best Directors under 30 years old On Mubi Canada

Staff & contributors

Summer 1993 charts a formative summer in the life of young Frida (Laia Artigas), a brooding six-year-old who, having just been orphaned by AIDS, is sent from her home in Barcelona to live in the countryside with her uncle (David Verdaguer), his wife (Bruna Cusí), and their little girl (Paula Robles). Catalan director Carla Simón drew on her own childhood experiences for the film, making Summer 1993 feel intimately told. It’s shot from the perspective of its young protagonist and is guided by the unpredictable rhythms of memory: we experience Frida’s new life the way she might remember it when she’s older, via snapshots of moments that stand out to a child, like the day she spent amongst the chickens in a neighbor’s farm or the moment another kid asks her why she isn’t more visibly upset about her mother’s recent death.

That emotional enigmaticness is what makes Artigas’s naturalistic performance so absorbing: she never plays Frida in a predictable dramatic register, so much so that it’s easy to forget we’re not watching a documentary. The unexpected little ways her grief manifests itself — along with Simón’s assured, impressionistic directing — make this a profoundly heart-rending watch throughout, and especially so in its gut-punch of a final scene.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Bruna Cusí, David Verdaguer, Fermí Reixach, Isabel Rocatti, Laia Artigas, Quimet Pla

Director: Carla Simón

, 1992

Restored in 2019, Djibril Diop Mambéty's adaptation of the 1956 play, The Visit, presents a powerful allegory of societal decay through the story of Linguère Ramatou, a woman who returns to her impoverished hometown with an offer that can change everything. Mambéty's skillful direction captures the complexities of human nature and the moral choices we face in a world driven by greed and corruption in a global capitalist world. The narrative unfolds with precision, blending dark humor and piercing social commentary. With or without the context of its original influence, Hyenas is a brilliant Senegalese film.

 

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Director: Djibril Diop Mambéty

A road trip movie with an unknown destination, Hit the Road plays with our expectations by avoiding any obvious questions we might have, and making us focus on the real important things. Informed by the censorship and persecution faced by critics of Iran's government—including director Panah Panahi's own filmmaker father, Jafar—the film places more focus on the very act of escape and what that can take from a family. And most importantly, through Panahi's skillful direction of rural Iran's varied, beautiful landscapes, he creates a conflicted relationship between character and setting, with entire emotional crescendos playing out just through a single shot of the environment. It's one of the most underappreciated movies of the year.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Amin Simiar, Hasan Ma'juni, Pantea Panahiha, Rayan Sarlak

Director: Panah Panahi

On one level, Alcarràs is a story about land, about how inextricable it is to livelihood, about how ownership of it has bred conflict since time immemorial. Director Carla Simón emphasizes this even more by hiring actual Catalan farmers as the leads. We’re not just watching the Solés sing and fight for their land, but Alcarràs natives who are also very much at risk of losing what’s theirs in real life. The acting comes off as natural because it is. 

But on another level, Alcarràs is also a story about family, in particular about how family ties run so deep, they’re bound to coil around each other under the ground they’re rooted in. Like a family portrait come to life, Alcarràs shows us the beauty and the peril of loving your family and the legacy they leave behind as much as the Solés do. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Jordi Pujol Dolcet

Director: Carla Simón

A man returns to a town chasing the memory of a woman he loved years ago.

Poet turned filmmaker Bi Gan coats his idiosyncratic filmmaking with a thick layer of neo-noir in this sumptuous follow up to his remarkable debut Kaili Blues. This time around, Kaili City is a neon-drenched dreamscape dripping in style and calling to mind the work of Tarkovsky and Wong Kar-wai. 

He may wear his influences on his sleeve, but Bi Gan keeps his trademark moves like the bravado long takes and a poetic disregard for past and present, reality and dreams. This leads to an explosive and unforgettable sequence in the second half that while originally intended for 3D loses little of its mind-bending power when watched at home.

Genre: Drama, Mystery

Actor: Bi Gan, Bi Yanmin, Chen Yongzhong, Chloe Maayan, Duan Chun-hao, Feiyang Luo, Hong-Chi Lee, Huang Jue, Jue Huang, Lee Hong-chi, Ming Dao, Qi Xi, Sylvia Chang, Tang Wei, Tuan Chun-hao, Zeng Meihuizi, 张艾嘉

Director: Bi Gan

Rating: Not Rated

Thunder Road is both a single-shot 13 minute short and a 91-minute feature-film expanding the story. Both are excellent and award-winning, but I really recommend the full experience!

Jim Cummings (above) is the director, writer, and main actor of this dark comedy. He plays a police officer having the worst day of his life as he tries to sing Bruce Springsteen’s Thunder Road at his mother’s funeral.

This sight is funny, and so is most of the story. But it’s also cringe-inducing, and because the main character is so sincere in his decline, will make you feel guilty about laughing so much. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Ammie Masterson, Bill Wise, Chelsea Edmundson, Chris Doubek, Frank Mosley, Jim Cummings, Jocelyn DeBoer, Jordan Ray Fox, Kendal Farr, Macon Blair, Marshall Allman, Nican Robinson, Tristan Riggs

Director: Jim Cummings

Rating: N/A

By all outward appearances, The Villages—a massive and manicured retirement community in Florida—looks like it does offer paradise to its aging residents, as promised. The list of activities is endless, the seniors are all partnered up. “It’s like going back to college,” as one of them puts it, where people from all over the country come together to create a new life with each other. 

But of course, nothing comes that easy, not even death. Some Kind of Heaven follows certain residents (and one committed trespasser) as they grapple with the slipperiness of fulfillment in their later years. It gets very eerie when the film's bleak messages are contrasted with the home's vibrant Floridian colors and the residents' plastered smiles. But the eeriness adds to the overall intrigue and pull of the documentary. Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) co-produces this fascinating film.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Director: Lance Oppenheim

, 2013

Ida, the 2015 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, is a stark black & white drama set in the early 60’s about a young Polish nun-to-be and her bawdy Aunt Wanda searching for the truth behind her family’s demise at the hands of the Nazis. What initially comes off as a painfully slow sleep-inducer pretty quickly evolves into a touching and lively contrast between the two lead characters; one virtuous and pure, the other boorish and hedonistic. Their journey is equal parts amusing, insightful and heartbreaking, with Ida’s personal exploration of self playing out as a remarkably humanistic affair. The cinematography by Lukasz Za and Ryszard Lenczewski is particularly striking, each shot a work of art in it’s own right. Logging in at just 82 minutes, the entire story whizzes by in a flash. The kind of film that will stay with you long after you’ve watched it.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adam Szyszkowski, Agata Kulesza, Agata Trzebuchowska, Artur Janusiak, Dawid Ogrodnik, Dorota Kuduk, Halina Skoczynska, Izabela Dąbrowska, Jerzy Trela, Joanna Kulig, Marek Kasprzyk, Mariusz Jakus, Paweł Burczyk

Director: Paweł Pawlikowski

Rating: PG-13

With its wildly different shifts between the film’s chapters, Bad Education feels like it doesn’t know what to do with itself, like plenty of newly graduated teenagers. The first chapter holds such visceral revulsion that it first feels like it would be a serious cautionary tale, commenting on how, without guidance, teenagers will led each other astray. However, its next chapter takes a more comedic route as the kids try to escape from gangsters and the police. While director Kai Ko reveals an excellent sense of direction and imagery, his style feels like it’s been wasted on ill-thought intentions and a poorly written script. Bad Education at least has stunning visuals and a short runtime to get through it all.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery

Actor: Berant Zhu, Edison Song, Huang Hsin-Yao, Kai Ko, Kent Tsai, Leon Dai, Ning Chang, Tzu-Chiang Wang

Director: Kai Ko