Since Kathryn Bigelow's Best Director win for The Hurt Locker in 2008, women directors have continued to widen the spotlight and make room for unique narratives that speak to audiences in new, important ways.

Writer/director Francesca Gregorini first came on the independent scene with Tanner Hall (2009), a drama starring Brie Larson and Rooney Mara, about four girls' coming-of-age tales at boarding school. Gregorini is back with her hybrid mother-daughter psychological thriller, The Truth About Emanuel, starring Kaya Scodelario and Jessica Biel.
The Truth About Emanuel is now on VOD and digital platforms and is also in select theaters beginning January 10th. In honor of Gregorini's new film, here is a list of other breakthrough women filmmakers to put on your watchlist.

Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Breakthrough film: Blackfish (2013)

With her documentary about animal cruelty at SeaWorld, Cowperthwaite has everyone from filmmakers and politicians to famous musicians speaking out about the theme park's inhumane policies. We might have heard horror stories in the past, but none quite as maddening and heartbreaking as that of orca Tilikum, who is responsible for multiple deaths since his capture. Making waves in the documentary world and beyond, Blackfish is currently available to stream on Netflix.

Martha Shane and Lana Wilson
Breakthrough film: After Tiller (2013)
This documentary duo has changed the discourse surrounding late-term abortions through their poignant and compassionate filmmaking – close-ups of nervous hands clenching tissues, as their camera acted as a fly on the wall during group therapy sessions and doctor's visits. Shane and Wilson’s documentary style is far from essayist, as the two sit back, stay silent, and let the story unfold from all sides.

Gia Coppola
Breakthrough film: Palo Alto (2014)
Queen Sofia has a filmmaking niece and we should all be rejoicing. Put to work early on, Gia assisted on sets for Somewhere and Twixt before taking on her own projects. Adapting the short story collection of the same name by James Franco (and having him star opposite Emma Roberts), Gia gives a feminine touch to the tale like only a Coppola woman can. Tribeca Film has acquired Palo Alto, due out this spring.

Rebecca Thomas
Breakthrough film: Electrick Children (2009)
After the success of her short, Nobody Knows You, Nobody Gives a Damn, at Sundance nearly five years ago, Thomas is back, this time with her Mormon dramedy feature, Electrick Children – about a young woman from a devoutly religious family, who believes she’s conceived rock n’ roll music – literally – and flees to where else but Las Vegas to find the father. Witty and bold, Thomas’ originality is undoubtedly refreshing. Check out Electrick Children on Netflix.

Jessie McCormack
Breakthrough film: Expecting (2013)
This first-time director could have fooled us. Acknowledged for capturing female friendship in its purest form, McCormack blended a perfect cast in her indie breakthrough, featuring Michelle Monaghan and Radha Mitchell as very best friends dealing with issues surrounding motherhood. Expecting is available on VOD and digital platforms.

Penny Lane
Breakthrough film: We Are the Littletons: A True Story (2004)
No, she does not work under a pseudonym – this documentarian is the real deal and so are her films. Lane takes history, picks it up by its feet, turns it upside down, and shakes out new elements to the stories we think we know, like little coins of clarity. Not playing it safe either, Lane has made films about everything from NASA romances to abortion to crooked politicians. Her acclaimed latest, Our Nixon, about the president’s right-hand men amidst the Watergate scandal, is now available to stream on Netflix.

Lake Bell
Breakthrough film: In a World… (2013)
You might recognize her from various rom-coms such as No Strings Attached and What Happens in Vegas.  She’s also starred in shows, including Children’s Hospital on Adult Swim and HBO’s, How to Make it in America. This year, Bell got a little more comfortable behind the camera with her independent comedy hit, In a World… a film about sexism within the voiceover industry. Bell has worked on shorts before, but this was her first feature and she has truly made her mark as both a screenwriter and director.