The first and only woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director, Kathryn Bigelow’s command of visual narrative, her tenacity and her choice of subjects that have the ability to provoke change, have redefined the landscape of cinema today. The American director also acts as producer and writer for many of her films.
Bigelow, who originally studied painting at the San Francisco Art Institute before receiving a Master’s in Film from Columbia University and becoming a filmmaker, co-wrote and directed her first feature film The Loveless in 1981, which gained critical acclaim. In the 1990s, she directed a trilogy of action films, Blue Steel (1990), Point Break (1991) and Strange Days (1995), written and produced by fellow Rolex Testimonee James Cameron, in which she challenged the conventions of action cinema and garnered praise for her visual aesthetic.
Her subsequent films solidified her position as a Hollywood heavyweight with the political action-thrillers The Hurt Locker in 2008 and Zero Dark Thirty in 2012, both of which earned her Oscar® nominations; for The Hurt Locker, Bigelow won Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director. With her most recent film, Detroit, Bigelow directed and produced a film based on the 1967 Detroit riots, concerning race-related violence in the United States. Her films provoke an examination of the politics that surround us, and have established the director as a true auteur.
Her films have depicted incidents in time which act as a reflection on society, and have in turn, helped to define that same society with the timeless works she creates.
What would you want young filmmakers to take away from your films?
I would say to strive, to be prepared to be challenged, don’t compromise and that art has to matter.
What should young filmmakers keep in mind?
That they have a purpose and that the film has the potential to matter. Not just to them but to the audience as well.
Always be learning. Teach others. Give back. Compassion is your best friend.
How would you encourage them to make films that matter?
I would encourage them to tell their story. To care deeply about their story. And to not compromise.
Do you think as a filmmaker you have a responsibility to the stories that you tell?
I think filmmakers have a responsibility to care deeply about the story that they’re telling and their voice matters. Films have a tremendous amount of potential in terms of informing an audience, that’s where they can be truly relevant.