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The Conversation: Top 10 American Indie Filmmakers Missing in Action (Class of ’18)

The Conversation: Top 10 American Indie Filmmakers Missing in Action (Class of ’18)

Following up on our 2018 edition of international directors who have been missing in action for five years or more, we turn to a clutch of American filmmakers in a similar predicament. From our 2017 edition, several directors have embarked on new cinematic projects, including Miranda July with a new untitled film starring Evan Rachel Wood, Debra Winger and Gina Rodriguez while Kasi Lemmons will have the honor of bringing the biopic of Harriet Tubman to the big screen starring Cynthia Erivo in Harriet. Here’s our next dose of American directors we hope to see line up new projects in the near future.

#10. Tom Dicillo (Delirious, 2006)

Best known for giving us Brad Pitt in that pompadour with 1991’s Johnny Suede and the classic 1995 comedy Living in Oblivion (both premiering out of Sundance), Tom Dicillo has been working on various television series (and a 2010 documentary Down in Shadowland) over the past decade. His last narrative feature was the off-beat indie drama Delirious starring Steve Buscemi and Michael Pitt (which won Best Director and Screenplay at the San Sebastian Film Festival. His 1996 title Box of Moonlight competed in Venice.

#9. Nicole Kassell (A Little Bit of Heaven, 2011)

Nicole Kassell’s been working in television since her Kate Hudson-Gael Garcia Bernal headlined sophomore film A Little Bit of Heaven. Kassell was a breakout success with her 2004 debut The Woodsman, which competed in Sundance and went on to be programmed in the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes.

#8. Andrew Davis (The Guardian, 2006)

A titan of 1980s and 1990s action cinema thanks to his Chuck Norris starrer Code of Silence (1985), some Steven Segal flicks (Above the Law, 1988; Under Siege, 1992) and the 1993 Oscar winner The Fugitive, Davis helmed the lauded YA adaptation of Holes in 2003 and was last seen with the Michael Douglas starrer The Guardian in 2006. Over the past several years, rumored projects have included plans for a biopic on Pretty Boy Floyd and an update of Treasure Island, neither of which have yet come to fruition.

#7. Allen Hughes (Broken City, 2013)

The Hughes Brothers delivered the seminal 1990s titles Menace II Society (1993) and Dead Presidents (1995), and went on to more mainstream efforts such as the Johnny Depp Jack the Ripper title From Hell (2001) and The Book of Eli (2010). After Eli, the brothers parted ways as directors, with Albert Hughes going on to make this year’s Alpha while Allen Hughes was last seen with the Russell Crowe-Mark Waklberg flick Broken City in 2013.

#6. Penelope Spheeris (Balls to the Wall, 2011)

Responsible for one of the 1990s most iconic comedies, Wayne’s World (1992), Penelope Spheeris unleashed a number of big-budget items in the same decade, including film updates of The Little Rascals (1994) and The Beverly Hillbillies (1994). She also directed Marlon Wayans in 1998’s Senseless and Chris Farley in 1996’s Black Sheep. Working in documentary (her popular The Decline of Western Civilization series) and television, Spheeris was last on hand in cinematic narrative form with the 2011 comedy Balls to the Wall.

#5. Greg Harrison (November, 2004)

Director Greg Harrison gave Courtney Cox one of the most interesting roles of her career with his debut (and thus far, only film) November, a grim mood piece about an LA photographer beginning to lose her grip on reality. The film took home a cinematography award for Nancy Schreiber at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival.

#4. Henry Bean (Noise, 2007)

Writer/director Harry Bean’s last feature was the Tim Robbins vehicle Noise in 2007, but he’s perhaps better remembered for his attention grabbing debut The Believer, which featured a young Ryan Gosling as a Jewish skinhead. Bean also has a varied screenwriting resume, receiving credit for Basic Instinct 2 (2006) as well as a consultant credit for the last narrative feature by Chantal Ackerman, Almayer’s Folly (2011).

#3. Chris Kentis (Silent House, 2011)

Director Chris Kentis became instantly of note with his 2003 sophomore film Open Water, which inspired an unrelated sequel. For his third film, he re-made the Uruguayan film Silent House, a single-shot horror thriller, which utilized Elizabeth Olsen effectively, premiering alongside her breakout turn in Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene, which premiered alongside Kentis’ film at Sundance.

#2. Eric Mendelsohn (3 Backyards, 2010)

A director revered for his two low-key indie feature, both of which starred Edie Falco, Eric Mendelsohn went directly to the Un Certain Regard sidebar of Cannes for his black and white debut Judy Berlin (1999). Nearly a decade later, he took home a directing award out of Sundance 2010 for his sophomore film 3 Backyards.

#1. Larry Cohen (Original Gangstas, 1996)


It’s been twenty-three years since genre legend Larry Cohen’s last feature, Original Gangstas, which featured Fred Williamson, Jim Brown and Pam Grier in what served as a throwback to Cohen’s initial success as a director of Blaxploitation classics such as Black Caesar and Hell Up in Harlem (both 1973). An offbeat genre trailblazer known for his It’s Alive trilogy, God Told Me To (1976) and the last official film of Bette Davis with Wicked Stepmother (1989), Cohen’s name recently came up in the 2018 Blacklist for the script Saddam & Me, so hope is not lost for another potential Cohen film.

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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