Women Win Big at Sheffield Doc/Fest, First Major Festival to Offer Delegates a Crèche
Kirsten Johnson’s documentary of documentaries (literally), Cameraperson, took the Grand Jury Prize at Sheffield Doc/Fest. Johnson (second right) was the cinematographer on female-helmed docs Citizenfour (Laura Poitras), Born to Fly (Catherine Gund), and Trapped (Dawn Porter), as well as Fahrenheit 9/11 – and yes, Michael Moore came to her screening. She shared the awards ceremony with a majority-female stage, including Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami for Sonita, also funded by female-focused doc producers Chicken & Egg, and female winners in digital and creative leadership. Fingers crossed that Cameraperson and Sonita (which also played at the East End Film Festival) can follow up their wins with UK distribution.
Amma Asante’s A United Kingdom to Open the London Film Festival
Asante will be only the 5th female filmmaker to open the LFF, and (this bit is definitely not good news) the first ever black filmmaker to open or close the festival. Signs (finally) that the BFI is putting its money where its mouth is in terms of its commitment to diversity, and a total tingling-from-head-to-toe thrill for fans of BTF GFF (Girl Friday Forever) Asante, and of her multiple award-winning previous films A Way of Life and Belle. A United Kingdom continues her beautiful work of giving back to us the lost, long history of mixed-race romance and its political significance (as the British media sometimes needs reminding).
Margaret Atwood Wins the PEN Pinter Prize (& Also Wins June TV News)
Margaret Atwood has never written a film, but Harold Pinter adapted Atwood’s still-chilling novel of a religious right uber-patriarchy, The Handmaid’s Tale, so I’m claiming this for film feminism. In more good news: Sarah Polley has been working on an adaptation of Alias Grace, Atwood’s account of Canada’s most notorious 19th century female murderer. Melissa Silverstein reports that it will now be a six hour mini-series with murder specialist Mary Harron (I Shot Andy Warhol, American Psycho, The Moth Diaries) directing. And Reed Morano will direct Elisabeth Moss in a new adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale.
— Melissa Silverstein (@melsil) 21 June 2016
Liverpool Small Cinema Promise 58%
Community venture Liverpool Small Cinema comes out flying with the most radical programming project in the UK: a commitment to making its programme reflect the population, with 58% of films screened directed by female and/or trans, intersex and non-binary directors, with an emphasis on films by people of colour. They launched with BTF favourite The Watermelon Woman (Cheryl Dunye) on 2 June, and the programme runs and runs, with international filmmakers, including Ester Martin Bergsmark, still to come. They’re also screening “lost” documentary Wildwood, NJ (Ruth Leitman & Carol Cassidy), which is touring around the UK thanks to Isabel Moir of Overnight Film Festival. Check out the 58% project here and find out more on Isabel Moir’s Wildwood tour here!
Survey Says: Raising Films is Hard but We’re Making It Possible
If you love pie charts and hate gender inequality in film, then spring 2016 has been one long party, with Directors UK, EWA and Calling the Shots all reporting. Raising Films adds to your summer reading with the first-ever report on parents and carers in the UK film and television industry, launched at the Edinburgh Film Festival. While the results can’t be called a good thing (72% said being a carer had a negative impact on their career), the creative energy of the 636 respondents has definitely spurred us to keep campaigning, with launch event support from parent filmmakers Jeanie Finlay, Steven Sheil, Penny Woolcock, Alex Helfrecht and Jörg Tittel, Beryl Richards, and China Moo-Young. Check the survey results here.
Also at Edinburgh, Lizzie Borden Comes Out of the Closet…
Or rather, her 1976 film Regrouping did: literally, screening for the first time since its UK premiere at EIFF ’76. Months of painstaking research by Black Box programmer Kim Knowles turned up this lost gem of a docu-fiction about a women’s group whose political discussions are filmed by Borden, who then turned the footage over to the group for commentary (and added startling performance art interruptions). Borden was on hand, along with filmmakers Laura Mulvey, William Raban and Sarah Turner, to describe the film’s strange history and poignant meanings on 24 June, a day when regrouping was desperately needed.
Sisters Uncut Remind Us Why Programming Women’s Work Matters
Discussing the female artists who worked with her on Regrouping (including Joan Jonas and Barbara Kruger), Lizzie Borden described the New York art scene in the 1970s was heavy macho. She gave the example of Cuban-American artist Ana Mendieta, who apparently fell to her death during a fight with her husband, artist Carl Andre, which many feminists have since identified as murder. Andre’s work is on display in the rehung Tate Modern, Mendieta’s is in storage. That needs to change, and Sisters Uncut are campaigning to make it so, via protests and zines. As Liv Wynter writes, “The first cry-in for Ana Mendieta was held at the Guggenheim in 1992. We walked with the weight of 24 years of shouting and crying.”
BRINGING GREENHAM HOMEMcr with Club des Femmes, July 15th:
With my other hat on, I’m getting ready to head up to Manchester and remember the legendary protest energy of the Women of Greenham Common, in the company of some current women’s rights activists, and feminist film historians Selina Robertson and Jackie Stacey. Club des Femmes are thrilled to be taking BRINGING GREENHAM HOME, which was part of The Time is Now, from the Rio to HOMEMcr and you can book tickets here.
Londoners eager for a Club des Femmes fix, we are very excited to be co-hosting the free UK premiere of Les prostituées de Lyon parlent with the English Collective of Prostitutes and Sex Worker Open University, at the Rio on July 10th. Book now!