Consistently recognized as one of the more exciting young filmmakers to emerge from the last decade, Sara Colangelo has quickly risen to prominence as a talented writer and director of both narrative films and documentaries with a strong and clearly-defined voice. Raised in rural Massachusetts, Colangelo majored in history at Brown University before beginning her filmmaking career in 2006 with Halal Vivero. With Colangelo also acting as producer, editor, and cinematographer, this 10-minute documentary on a NYC slaughterhouse run by Spanish immigrants took a unique look at the ever changing nature of the city’s demographics. Her follow up the next year was Un attimo di respiro, a narrative piece once again exploring the industry of animal slaughter and branching into unfamiliar cultural contexts, this time examining the point of view of a frustrated young Italian man. The film was notably well-received, touring at numerous festivals across the globe and winning Colangelo the prestigious Wasserman Prize at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, from which she graduated in 2010.
Colangelo’s thesis film saw her tackle characters and situations that are likely closer to her own roots. Set in a small town in Massachusetts, Little Accidents once again demonstrated the young director’s talent for creating nuanced and captivating dramatic situations out of relatively low-stakes and plausible scenarios. The film debuted at Sundance at which it was nominated for the Short Filmmaking Award. After collecting prizes at numerous other festivals for Little Accidents, Colangelo set out on a feature adaptation. Utilizing fellowships earned from various filmmaking institutions, she completed the screenplay for what would become her first full-length film. This 2014 version of Little Accidents starred Elizabeth Banks, Boyd Holbrook, and Chloë Sevigny and depicted the aftermath of a coal mining accident on a rural community. Once again premiering at Sundance, the film received mixed reviews from critics, but still won Colangelo a nomination for Best First Screenplay at the Independent Spirit Awards.
Her proficiency for impactful writing and grounded storytelling carried through into her next project, the intense and gripping Maggie Gylenhaal vehicle, The Kindergarten Teacher (2018), a remake of Israeli director Nadav Lapid’s 2014 film of the same name. Colangelo’s version lends particular focus to a female perspective in a carefully-constructed manner that leads the audience to constantly question the perceived morality of the protagonist’s actions. Exploring themes of pedagogy, personal fulfillment, and creative expression, the film features a collection of original poetry, much of which is delivered by Parker Sevak in one of the more convincing and naturalistic child performances to be put to the screen. While somewhat polarizing for audiences, this movie launched Colangelo into much greater public recognition and has garnered a good deal of popularity, in part due to its availability on online streaming services. It also won Colangelo Sundance’s Dramatic Directing Award.
Continuing to stare directly at the uncomfortable, Colangelo once again examines the aftermath of disaster in her latest project, Worth, which stars Michael Keaton as real-life attorney Kenneth Feinberg, a legal champion for the victims of the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center. This film marks the first time Colangelo has directed another writer’s screenplay, and has so far received exceedingly positive reviews. It is unclear at this point whether she will return to writing her own scripts for future projects, but what is certain is that her prominence as a skilled director of unique and powerful films will continue to grow.
Little Accidents (2014) - writer/director
The Kindergarten Teacher (2018) - writer/director
Worth (2020) - director