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Hollywood’s Top Directorial Debuts

ANOTHER EARTH is Mike Cahill’s visually stunning feature length debut as a solo director. The film, written by Cahill himself and co-star Brit Marling, unfolds the story of a parallel world, a new planet identical to our own Earth. The story follows the relationship between Rhoda (played by Marling), a brilliant young woman who was accepted at MIT but was unable to go after tragedy struck, and depressed university professor John Burroughs (William Mapother). Cahill’s feature length work debuted in the UK at the Raindance Film Festival earlier this year. Acclaimed for its original script, honest characters, and spectacular imagery, Cahill’s debut was certainly a bold success. It is not every day that a director’s first film turns into an artistic beauty. To celebrate the release of ANOTHER EARTH in cinemas on 9th December, we explore other film directors who had similar success with their directorial debuts – not always an easy feat.

Being John Malkovich (1999)

Spike Jonze’s BEING JOHN MALKOVICH is quirky, imaginative, and a little weird- but no less celebrated. Jonze’s debut film depicts unemployed puppeteer Craig Shwartz (John Cusack) who discovers a portal to the mind of actor John Malkovich. He shares his discovery with his new co-worker (Catherine Keener), who he happens to have a crush on despite being married to pet-obsessed wife Lotte (Cameron Diaz). As the three of them fight over access into John’s mind and learn how to further control him, strange relationships develop. The darkly entertaining film won Jonze an Academy Award nomination for Best Director. Not short on talent, Jonez – when not creating other acclaimed films such as Where the Wild Things Are – has worked for famous advertising campaigns, music videos, and television programs.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Frank Darabont’s ‘Shawshank Redemption’ is the feature length debut of Hungarian-American director Frank Darabont. Darabont, born in a refugee camp in France, moved to the States with his family and grew up to write and direct Oscar-nominated films. He started with the dramatic Shawshank Redemption, based on Steven King’s novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. Tim Robbins stars as banker Andrew Dufrense, sentenced to double consecutive life sentences after being convicted of murdering his wife and her lover, despite his steadfast protests of innocence. Darabont’s first film was nominated for seven Academy Awards and tops BBC Radio 1’s ‘favourite film of all time’ list.

Paranormal Activity (2007)

Oren Peli’s PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is one of the most profitable films ever made – not bad for a horror film with a $15,000 budget. Israeli-born Peli moved to the United States when he was 19 to study animation and graphic design, which clearly aided his current success. Paranormal Activity follows a young couple haunted by a supernatural force in their own home. Claimed to be “one of the scariest movies of all time”, the film captivates audiences through its style of “found footage”, on a camera the couple sets up by their bed to determine what is haunting them. Peli’s unique style of cinematography and pacing secured the film’s widely positive reception.

Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

Jared Hess’ NAPOLEON DYNAMITE is deadpan funny in its slow-paced yet smart story of eccentric high school student Napoleon Dynamite (played by Jon Herder). The film debuted at Sundance Film Festival and rapidly developed a cult following, despite being given a limited release. Jared Hess’ piece is an honest and fresh look at a dorky kid stuck in the middle of nowhere in Idaho. The story follows Napoleon’s adventures with his shy friend Dep and Mexican friend Pedro. Unfortunately, Hess’ debut is way more successful than his following works of film.

Citizen Kane (1941)

Orson Welles’ CITIZEN KANE is widely considered the greatest American film of all time – a film created when Welles was only 25. Welles also stars as Charles Foster Kane, a hugely wealthy media mogul who dies while holding a snow globe, uttering his final words “Rosebud”- which leads to a reflective look back at Kane’s personal life and the meaning of Rosebud. Despite controversy over character Kane’s inspiration and similarities of real-life William Randolph Hearst, and a poor showing at the box office, the film was nominated for nine Academy Awards. Its American revival in the mid-1950’s led it to the critical acclaim it still reaps today.

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Quentin Taratino’s RESERVOIR DOGS is the famous director’s cult classic crime feature debut. Reservoir Dogs, which follows six criminals and two gangsters after a botched diamond heist, displays an all-star cast of Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Chris Penn, Lawrence Tierney, and Eddie Bunker. The film’s black humour, graphic violence, and nonlinear storyline make it a unique piece, deserving of its “Greatest Independent Film of all Time” title named by Empire. The film had a modest cinematic showing in the United States but became a major hit in the United Kingdom, setting Taratino up for further success with his even more widely acclaimed Pulp Fiction.

ANOTHER EARTH hits UK cinemas December 9th. Watch the trailer below.

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