The spookiest month of the year has kept BTF frighteningly busy. London Film Festival boasted an impressive crop of fine films from some of the world’s fiercest female directors, and we burnt the candle at both ends in a bid to devour as many as possible whilst finding time to pop to Bradford to introduce Ghostbusters at the long-running Widescreen film fest. What better way to cushion the festival comedowns than with the launch of the startlingly impressive Black Star season at the BFI, which celebrates black stardom on the big and small screen. Where Simran is hosting some unmissable events (her Beyoncé Study Day is genius), is one step away from paying the BFI rent money for basically living in the Southbank.
As ever, we still found time to round up the good news for women doing awesome things in film. Here’s our reasons to be cheerful for October!
Naomie Harris to receive a Variety Award BIFA!
After enjoying Naomie Harris’ moving performance and insightful Q&A comments on playing women with addictions in Moonlight – one of our favourite films of the year (let alone London Film Festival) – we’re beyond thrilled to hear she’ll be awarded this year’s Variety Award at the British Independent Film Awards in December.
The award recognises a director, writer, producer or actor who has helped shine an international spotlight on British filmmaking, and has previously sat on the shelves of Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren and Michael Caine. Harris said: “I am touched and honoured to be included alongside such an inspiring and talented group of filmmakers. Working in film has given me the chance to tell stories from around the world — and I’m incredibly proud to represent British filmmaking when doing so.”
Kelly Reichardt is a Certain Winner at LFF
This year’s London Film Festival left us spoilt for choice but one film that captured our imagination was Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women which was awarded Best Film. Reichardt presents an acute, melancholy study of four women’s lives played by Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart, Lily Gladstone and Laura Dern. Despite their separate narratives (three short stories inspired by writer Maile Meloy), their journeys are united by struggle, acceptance and reticent perseverance. The judges, who included actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw and directors Sarah Gavron, Athina Rachel Tsangari and Mat Kirkby stated: “In a vibrant year for cinema it was the masterful mise en scène and quiet modesty of this film that determined our choice for best film. A humane and poignant story that calibrates with startling vulnerability and delicate understatement the isolation, frustrations and loneliness of lives unlived in a quiet corner of rural America.”
To see Reichardt’s stunning film rise above the fierce competition of well over 200 films is a beacon of hope not only for female directors, but to stories that are deeply rooted in the female psyche. More of these please.
Canadian TV Channel Promises Boost for Female Directed Shows
This month we learned that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, more conveniently known as CBC-TV, have announced they will be doing their darndest to ensure they have more female directed shows broadcasted on their network. How? By promising at least 50% of their most popular programs, such as Murdoch Mysteries and Heartland, will be female directed.
Heather Conway, CBC’s executive Vice President of English Services, said in a statement: “The talent, ideas and experiences of female directors are essential to the creation of extraordinary content that is seen in Canada and around the world. We know that there is still much work to be done, and look forward to building on our commitment to improve gender equity and diversity in all areas.”
This is the first Canadian channel to make such a valiant effort towards gender parity and something we hope to see more broadcasters adopt.
Race for the Documentary Oscar is off!
145 documentaries have now officially been submitted for the Oscar race and we’re chuffed to see so many female led stories and brilliant female directors peppering the collection. The A-Z list now up on the Academy Awards website features movies we’ve seen and lovedor titles we’re counting down the days to catch such as The 13th (Ava DuVernay), Abortion: Stories Women Tell (Tracy Droz Tragos), They Will Have To Kill Us First (Johanna Schwartz), Cameraperson (Kirsten Johnson), Amanda Knox, Black Women In Medicine (Crystal Emery), Mavis! (Jessica Edwards), and Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise (Rita Coburn Whack).
It’s refreshing to see a healthy crop of women of colour standing at the forefront of these films (Regina Benjamin, Maya Angelou, Mavis Staples), as well as behind the camera (Crystal Emery, Ava Duvernay, Rita Coburn Whack) in what can be seen as a reactionary response to the ongoing saga of the #OscarsSoWhite movement. Is the Academy finally proving they can look outside the box of old white man films? Or is this a tokenistic attempt to diversify this year’s selction? Either way, we’re glad for a new list of must-watch docs in a medium that’s crucial for discovering new voices and stories.
Black Stars Shine in London
As the Oscar folks clamber to pull up their diversity socks, here in London we’re showing the world how it’s done. October has offered an incredible selection of films and events showcasing the work of some of the best black filmmakers and actors. Step forward the BFI’s Black Star season and the Royal African Society’s annual film festival, Film Africa.
October saw the launch of both programs; whereas Film Africa will light up the capital with films from across the African continent and diaspora from Oct 28 – Nov 7, the BFI’s Black Star will be a two month, nationwide celebration of black stardom and is a delicious deep dive into classic, contemporary and fresh finds from the archives of black talent on screen.
The expertly curated seasons have so far offered a superb array of female excellence, from Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust, to Lizzie Borden’s fiercely feminist classic Born in Flames. There are countless films to highlight but a shout out also goes to the discussions and events which invite audiences to revel in their fandom such as Reel Good Film’s Queen Latifah celebration, and our very own Simran’s Beyoncé Study Day, which takes a critical look at Queen Bey’s screen stardom. As for Film Africa, we’re highlighting the European premiere of Dreamstates. Directed by Anisia Uzeyman, it explores how she and her husband – the enigmatic poet and musician Saul Williams – connected during a US road trip. Check out the Film Africa and BFI Black Star programmes now!
Next for November!
Next stop for Bechdel Test Fest is the Aesthetica Film Festival where we’ll be eyeing up some of the best short films and hope to meet a bunch of great new filmmakers. Make way, York! We’re coming for you!
And finally don’t forget to check out Bath Film Festival – home to the F Rating – which from the 3-13th November will host a cornucopia of excellent, female-empowered films! Highlights include Sonita, Summertime, Certain Women and Lady Macbeth! Def worth a roadtrip!