April 2016

Andrea Arnold provides the beacon of hope at the sausage fest that is Cannes, bad stats but good talk, and Beyonce draws attention to some of film’s most poignant filmmakers (who aren’t Terrence Malick).  Here’s the lemonade we’ve made from this month’s lemons in our monthly Good Things To Happen For Women In Film.

Beyonce Dropped a Bomb of a Movie (yes a movie) 

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By now you will have listened or watched Beyonce’s ‘Visual Album’ Lemonade and read numerous think pieces deciphering what Bey’s saying about marriage, art and the treatment of black women. For once the hype was valid. Sure there was bitter sweet sensationalism to feed the schadenfreude fans but if, like us, you’re more inclined to gorge on the artistry and power of a torn but talented woman, you’ll be bristling with excitement at the film, not so much the visual album as our Simran Hans pointed out in her piece for The New StatesmanBeyonce-Daughters

Pushing aside the references to Terrence Malick and David Lynch, Simran draws our attention to some more apt (and black female) references that seep into of the evocative chapters of Lemonade including Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou), Jane Campion (Top Of The Lake) and Julie Dash (Daughters Of The Dust).

Beyonce’s hail to Julie Dash is particularly poignant as she is the first black female director to receive a national release in 1992, a date which seems criminally recent. Perhaps in a timely fashion, the Cohen Film Collection also announced the release of a new restoration of this long-neglected film which will be available in autumn giving us more good news to be happy about.

Andrea Sweetens the Cannes Sausage Fest Line-up

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Although sad, it was unsurprising to hear the line-up of female-directed movies at this year’s Cannes made up a measly 15%. The infographic went viral in disapproval. However in our glass half full approach, we’re thrilled to hear Oscar-winner Andrea Arnold will emerge back to the film world with her film American Honey which has been selected for main competition.

Dartford-born Arnold is no stranger to Cannes after heading up a jury in 2012, and now returns to compete with her anticipated film of which she wrote and directed starring Shia Labeouf and Riley Keough. Andrea’s nomination joins Nicole Garcia’s From the Land of the Moon, and Maren Ade’s Toni Erdman to make up the three of the 20 films selected for the main prize. Fingers and toes are crossed.

BTF’s lorra LOLs at LOCO Film Festival!

BECHDEL JEST LOCO LONDON COMEDY FILM FESTIVAL

It’s been a busy month for us here at BTF. We hosted our third event of 2016 with a screening of Lona William’s Drop Dead Gorgeous where we teamed up with LOCO Comedy Film Festival – the UK’s only international festival dedicated to funny flicks. Along with the all-star, Bechdel Test-busting screening at the Prince Charles Cinema, we welcomed the uber-talents of writer Rachel Hirons (Powder Room) and director Sarah Warren (M.L.E) and our programmer Beth Webb hosted a sparkling conversation about their success and strife of being a woman in comedy film. ddg-panel

We love LOCO, now in its 5th year, not only for dishing up piping hot independent comedy movies, but also for the breezy fact that 40% of the billing enjoyed female-led films and even programmed a section called ‘Bechdel Jest’. We also love them for recognising the importance and craft of comedy. In their own words, they say ‘comedy bridges social divides. Since the beginning of film, comedy has united generations, cultures and classes’. Roll on 2017! Check out our pics from Drop Dead Gorgeous!

A Perfect 10 for Cleo Journal

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Kiva Reardon is brilliant. Three years ago she took her dismay at the lack of female film commentary and did something about it – that something was Cleo Journal which this month celebrated its 10th edition. The zine takes its savvy name from Agnès Varda’s ‘Cléo de cinq à sept’ ‘who comes to self-realization through the observation and mastering of her space’, and is as beautifully illustrated as it is intelligently written.

cleo_cover_blue_0The theme of the 10th edition, or volume 4 edition 1,  was appropriately themed with the concept of ‘risk’. In her editor’s letter Kiva riffs poignantly on the landmark of their accomplishment:

Three years ago, a group of women decided that starting a feminist film journal was a risk they wanted to take… Putting your name forward, attached to ideas and words that are set in “internet” stone, is inherently nerve-wracking. Putting your name forward in a field where so few women are writing is all but alienating.’ Justifiably, she goes on to call out the industry for being risk-averse when hiring female critics; ‘I believe that publications that don’t take risks on emerging voices will ultimately gain no rewards’.

Here’s to Cleo Journal, and its 50+ contributors, breathing fresh female voices into the world of film commentary and here’s to the next 10 editions! Read Kiva’s editor’s letter on Risk here.

Shots Fired

calling the shots

There seems to be new research released every other month with sad reminders that the industry just isn’t female-friendly. Reporting is important, but what we do with the information is even more so. This month BTF’s Corrina Antrobus was invited to discuss and take action on the results of the report that revealed that just one in five films released in Europe are directed by a woman at a symposium at Birkbeck Uni.

Leading the workshop was Head of Research Holly Aylett and Birkbeck lecturer Janet Mccabe who called upon an eclectic mix of thinkers and doers of the film industry from distributors, critics and filmmakers. The afternoon was spent looking at the hard stats and unpeeling the many layers that contribute to the poor positioning of women in film and suggesting combative action.

Further conversation will be hosted at the BFI on May 10 at Calling The Shots? Counting Women Filmmakers in British Cinema Today – a free evening of discussions and presentations. Calling The Shots is an AHRC-funded project which counts women in above-the-line production roles and the first findings from the study will be released at the event with discussion on how to better the bias for women in film. Here’s to doing, not just talking. Watch this space…

News of a Lifetime 

Expert Women 18/3/13 White City Anna Gordon/BBC

There’s plenty of women who make film and TV, but often the problem is the lack of broadcasters and funders to support or provide a platform for their work. That’s why we’re pleased to hear broadcasters Lifetime and the BBC making positive moves towards tipping the balance.

Lifetime TV network have already proven to be advocates for female stories as between 1994 – 2016 women wrote or directed 73 percent of Lifetime’s original films. Now, Head of Programming Liz Gateley has announced a female-heavy slate and a multi-platform initiative with emphasis on programming for and by women called The Fempire which will combine linear, digital and a social community. It’s goal is ‘entertaining and engaging the next generation of feminists’.

Lifetime_Logo-whitebackIt’s also encouraging to hear the BBC’s pledge to have 50% female on-screen roles, staff and senior leaders by 2020 – a target that also applies to radio. However other diversity attempts aren’t as radical with an 8% on-screen target for LGBT roles and 8% (up from 5%) for those with disabilities. The BBC’s 15% on-screen representation target for 2017 for people of colour remains and will not increase for 2020. So it may be a case of two steps forward one step back…

 

And finally…Bechdel Test Fest are Cooking up a Treat!

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Our next big event Nora Ephron’s Last Supper is now on sale! We’re dedicating a day to the life and work of writer, director and feminist icon, the late Nora Ephron on May 29 at the beautiful Rio Cinema in Dalston where we’ll screen Heartburn on a rare 35mm print, and Julie & Julia – Nora’s last ever film.  We’ll also be hosting a secret supper club with a four course dinner inspired by meals from her movies to pay homage to Nora’s love of food and eating together. Plus our first ever zine – Girls Gotta Eat – will be launched on the 29th and will feature a collaboration of fresh female film critics and illustrators.

We can’t wait to dish it up! Get your tickets now – see you on May Bank holiday!

 

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