38-year-old Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy is a relative newcomer compared to the rest of the directors on this list, but her worldwide impact is just as great—if not greater—than any them.
A Pakistani journalist and activist, Obaid-Chinoy has been the recipient of numerous awards, including six Emmys for her documentary work.
That work has changed the course of actual governments—her film, A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, highlights the issues of honor killings in Pakistan, following the story of an 18-year-old woman who was murdered by relatives seeking to regain their family’s honor. She was dumped into a river, but lived, miraculously, to tell her story.
Honor killings are not often discussed in Pakistan, and this is why Obaid-Chinoy chose this particular topic.
The power of her art was revealed when, in her Oscar acceptance speech for the film, she told the audience that Pakistan’s prime minister had seen her film, and subsequently vowed to change the law on honor killings.
“That is the power of film,” she said.
Obaid-Chinoy’s other projects cover topics such as acid attacks on women in Pakistan, and she constantly seeks to highlight humanitarian issues in her home country through her film work.
She’s succeeding, and that is why she is one director who is actively changing the world—not only in film, but in law and humanitarian efforts, as well.