Like many altruistic young dreamers, Noemie Nakai grew up wanting to make a difference in the world. Naturally, she thought that meant working at the United Nations.

As she got closer to her goal, however, someone at the organization suggested she was wasting her time. Possibly disheartened, Nakai recalls watching the 2005 film "The Constant Gardener," Fernando Meirelles' diplomat-themed thriller that won one of its stars, Rachel Weisz, an Academy Award. It was then that Nakai realized she could still make a difference in the world, but it would be through filmmaking.

Since then, the 29-year-old French-Japanese director has cut her teeth on a range of short films that have earned her descriptors such as "up-and-coming" and "one to watch." That's because, whether through acting or directing, Nakai has appeared to challenge herself by working outside of her comfort zone.