Still from Unbelievable, episodes directed by alumna Lisa Cholodenko ’97, image courtesy of Vanity Fair

Alumna Lisa Cholodenko '97 Directs Three Episodes of Netflix Series 'Unbelievable'

BY Gina Hackett, December 17, 2019

Still from 'Unbelievable', episodes directed by alumna Lisa Cholodenko ’97


Alumna Lisa Cholodenko ’97 directed three episodes of the Netflix series Unbelievable, which premiered in September to rave reviews.


The eight-episode series is an adaptation of a landmark article, An Unbelievable Story of Rape, written by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong and published in ProPublica and the Marshall Project in 2015. It was co-created by Susannah Grant, who is known for writing the script for Erin Brockovich, and novelists Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman.


Unbelievable stars Toni Collette (Hereditary) and Merritt Weaver (Nurse Jackie) as the detectives seeking to connect the plight of a Washington teenager forced to recant her accusation of rape and a series of rapes in Colorado, played by Kaitlyn Dever. 


It has triumphed as one of many series and films this year to give real-life stories of rape and assault against women life on the big screen, along with the soon-to-be-released Bombshell.


“It also offers one of the most revolutionary depictions of rape and its aftermath in the history of the small screen, showing little interest in the attacker or his motivations and instead focusing relentlessly on Marie and the detectives determined to stop a criminal,” according to The Los Angeles Times.


“As a mystery, the series is taut and engrossing, and its multiple denouements play out with a judicious mix of celebration and regret,” wrote The New York Times. concerned with the victims of that rapist, how they are treated by an inconsistent criminal justice system, and what a difference it makes when a woman who says she’s been assaulted is not only heard, but treated with compassion,” wrote Vulture


“This should not qualify as a radical approach to crime storytelling. But it indeed feels radical.”


The show is currently nominated for three Golden Globe Awards (Best Limited Series, Best Actress in a Limited Series for Dever and Weaver, and Best Supporting Actress in a Limited Series for Collette), as well as three Critics’ Choice Awards and a Screen Actors Guild Award. 


The Golden Globe Awards will take place on January 5, 2020.


Earlier this fall, Unbelievable was nominated for the Gotham Award for Breakthrough Series (Long Form). 


Cholodenko is no stranger to awards, with a Primetime Emmy under her belt for directing the HBO limited series Olive Kitteridge, amongst others. 


“To stay true to myself and the scripts and the article—to not sensationalize it but at the same time make it entertaining and compelling—I felt was a tall order,” Cholodenko told Screen Comment. “We found wonderful actors and we brought the right people in to create that environment that we could do it in.”


Cholodenko is set to direct two American remakes next. 


The first, Rita, is a Showtime dramedy starring and executive produced by Lena Headey (Game of Thrones), according to Deadline. It is based on the award-winning Danish series by the same name, written by Christian Torpe.

Cholodenko will also write and direct the American version of the German indie darling Toni Erdmann, according to IndieWire. The film will be co-written by Stuart Blumberg (The Kids Are All Right) and will star Kristen Wiig as the uptight businesswoman and daughter Ines, and Jack Nicholson as her prankster father.