Great Directors (DVD Review)

It’s a real treat, and suffice to say, and even and honor to review films in general, but there are those moments where a title flies under the radar and lands firmly on my lap that makes my whole day. Great Directors is one of these films; a documentary, in fact, that brightened up my day. Director and actress Angela Ismailos has traveled the world to interview several directors (auteurs, really) about their craft. Some of these people you may be very familiar with and some you may never have even heard of them, but know their work without thinking twice. Yes, Great Directors is a documentary, but is it your ordinary “talking heads” fluff piece or is it something more? Remember, this is a Kino Lorber release we’re talking about and we all know that they don’t mess around, so let’s see what happens. 



Great Directors is the passion project of Angela Ismailos who is a Greek actress – writer – director. She has assembled a documentary with ten of her favorite film directors. Directors that have had a major impact in her life and career. These ten greats include: David Lynch, Richard Linklater, Todd Haynes, John Sayles, Bernardo Bertolucci, Catherine Breillat, Liliana Cavani, Stephen Frears, Ken Loach, and Agnes Varda.

Here was a documentary that I knew nothing about beforehand, all I was told was that it featured a bunch of directors that I liked, and would I want to review it? I said sure, why not. I’m glad I did, because Great Directors is one of the best documentaries that I have seen in a longtime that deals with filmmakers on a more personal level. The documentary picks the heads of these directors to see what makes them tick and it also helps that Angela Ismailos is a very attractive woman, so my attention was assured. *wink*

Great Directors deals in depth as to what these filmmakers have gone through in order to bring true art to the world. Believe me, it hasn’t been easy for any of them, even those that are still relevant like Lynch, Linklater, and so forth. Lynch talks a bit about Dune and how he had no final cut on the film, but as he kept going further and further into the project he would sort of “die” each time the producers would come in and tweak something. Lynch literally called it a “living death” when Dune was finished. He would not be “reborn” until Blue Velvet was released, so in that sense, he calls his suffering a blessing.

Others that you may or may not know include John Sayles who is still the hardest indie director of all time. He self finances more than half of all his projects, but no need to cry for him, because he’s also one of the best paid and prolific script doctors working in Hollywood today. He’s worked on major blockbusters and makes good money that helps him finance his projects.

Richard Linklater talks about riding the wave of success with Dazed and Confused and coming crashing back down to Earth with the failure of The Newton Boys. He also talks about growing up poor, but with the added benefit of being a “white male” in America, meaning that that gave him access to things regardless of his station in life.

Todd Haynes talks about his influences as a child, growing up, and being one of the front runners, not necessarily championing the cause of “gay cinema,” because even though he is gay, he does not make it the centerpiece of his films. Haynes is a very cool dude.

As you can see, Great Directors leaves no stone unturned with regards to candor, honesty, and entertainment. I am also paraphrasing some of the content, because I don’t want to spoil all of the fun. I had a great time watching and listening to everyone talk about their art. Angela Ismailos is a good interviewer who lets her subjects spill open with tales of awe, wonder, and despair. The film runs a brisk 87 minutes, but as you will see in the special features section of this review, all is not lost – it has just begun.


Great Directors is presented in 480p (upconverted to 1080p), 1.85:1, widescreen. It’s a documentary, it was probably shot in HD, but this is a DVD, so we cannot go any further due to the limitations of the format. It looks good, and considering it’s at a lower resolution, gives it that nice archival quality. There are many parts of the documentary that feature archive footage and scenes of the filmmakers work, so most of it remains consistent when switching back and forth.


Great Directors is presented in Dolby Digital stereo, 192 kbps. Again, it is what is. It’s a documentary film consisting of various interviews, so a 5.1 soundtrack is not required. Great Directors is a dialogue driven film, and they all sound great and I never had a problem hearing what the directors and Angela had to say – even the non-English speaking directors came through loud and clear. It’s an average audio track, though.

Special Features

On the surface, Great Directors looks to have skimped on the special features, but upon closer inspection they have included bonus interviews with all of the directors featured. I did not get a final time count as to length, but the grand total of bonus interview footage is at several hours combined. I believe David Lynch had almost and extra hour’s worth of footage alone and John Sayle’s had an additional 45 minutes, so you’ve got at least 90 minutes on those two combined, so it is a really comprehensive supplemental section, to say the least – the bonus interviews run longer than the feature itself!

  • Extra Interviews with Every Director
  • Promotional Trailer

Final Thoughts

I can’t say enough good things about Great Directors. It was a breath of fresh air. Angela Ismailos is a pretty good interviewer, and now a writer-director in her own right, and I appreciate her going out there and securing her heroes of film, so that the rest of the world can be exposed to these artists. I’m also under the assumption that most of our readers know who at least two out of the ten directors on this DVD are – and shame on you if you don’t. 😉



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1 Response to “Great Directors (DVD Review)”

  1. Sean Ferguson

    Nice job Gerard! I thought you would like that.