Good Things To Happen For Women in Film: December

Well folks, we made it. Just about. December has seen another brutal cull of our most beloved movie stars (and honorary gamechanger George Michael) as this month we said a bitter farewell to Debbie Reynolds and her daughter Carrie Fisher. We also waved goodbye to Zsa Zsa Gábor, Florence Henderson, TV Royale Liz Smith and Indian actor turned politician Jayaram Jayalalithaa. We’re hoping that by the time you read this there won’t be any more additions to that list but 2016 in celebrity deaths is taking no prisoners. In these dark times, it’s even more important to look to the good going on – so here’s a little list of reasons to be cheerful and hopeful for 2017. Keep the faith and have a Happy New Year!

Cecile Emeke Strolls onto BBC3

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You may have heard us banging on about Cecile Emeke already (or seen her at our Beyond The Lights panel last summer) – she’s the brains behind the wonderfully lucid YouTube series Strolling which walks and talks alongside people of colour, riffing on the politics of identity. She’s also the director of Ackee & Saltfish, a comedy that follows two female friends as the shoot the breeze about everyday life such as the residency of Gertrude The Cat. Originally a web series on YouTube, Ackee & Saltfish is now one of the episodes on BBC Three’s Series 5 Comedy Feeds which hails fresh UK comedy talent.

New Statesman journalist (and past BTF panelist) Anna Leszkiewicz writes in praise of Cecile saying: “Emeke has a knack for capturing everyday conversations, as she did in the web series, and in her short documentary film series Strolling. As a result, the most mundane of daily interactions here sparkle with humour.” Here’s hoping the extra platform expands Cecile’s already loyal audience, allowing more people to be privy to her exceptional work.

Females Lead the Box Office Buck

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Once upon a time, in a far off land, people thought that female-led films weren’t lucrative investments. Of course this was all make believe, and 2016 proved it so with some wonderful films with women at the helm. In fact, in the UK, the top three blockbusters of the year have female leads; Rogue One, Bridget Jones’ Baby and Star Wars The Force Awakens.

Amongst the routine string of superhero movies and Disney hits, also lies Absolutely Fabulous The Movie, The BFG and The Girl On The Train all sitting pretty in the top 30 grossing movies list according to Sky. Oh, and THAT Ghostbusters reboot? It was the no.1 on its opening weekend making it Paul Feig’s best-ever UK release. So it’s true audiences ain’t afraid of no ghosts, especially when being busted by the likes of Kate McKinnon (who was unanimously everyone’s fave). As for the original Ghostbusters fans? Fret not, your childhood is still in tact. 

Women Top Critics’ End Of Year Lists

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As the end of a year dawns, ‘best of’ lists pepper the press with reflective summaries of the year gone by. Perhaps the most discerning list is the Sight & Sound poll which reveals the most critically acclaimed movies and usually veering more towards independent cinema. This year’s list, voted for by 163 critics and curators (ourselves included), had a gloriously diverse top five, headed up by the barmy black comedy Toni Erdmann (directed by Maren Ade). Then there was the exquisite Moonlight with its all-black cast about the soul searching of a young gay man,  Elle (led by Isabelle Huppert) was third, the deeply feminist Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt) fourth, and fifth was the mesmeric American Honey (Andrea Arnold), which we love even more for giving us promising new actor Sasha Lane. 

Kudos has to go to Beyoncé whose visual album Lemonade ignited healthy debate on its ‘film’ credentials. But that didn’t stop the sumptuous work – which channels pain, betrayal, realisation and redemption – from appearing in the Sight & Sound list and making it to the very top of Gal-Dem’s film and TV highlights (which also included female empowered Queen of Katwe, Moana and Zootropolis).

Another good gauge of popularity came from the Hey U Guys poll (to which we also contributed), which saw Arrival (led by Amy Adams) in the top spot followed by Room and Rouge One – again all with female leads.

Bafta Pulls out More Seats at the Table

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BAFTA have had a wake up call. The longstanding empire of excellence for British TV and film talent, have increased and expanded its membership eligibility making way for a more diverse constituent. Unsurprisingly the typical BAFTA voter is 52 year-old white male, but the new drive is to increase more women and people of colour into the club. Since the move, BAFTA has accepted 375 new members – 43% are female, 18% minority ethnic, and the average age is 44. New folks propping up the BAFTA bar include Idris Elba, Elhum Shakerifar, Georgina Campbell and Michaela Coel. 

More radically, is the eligibility criteria for Outstanding British film, and Outstanding Debut as from 2019 films submitted for an award must adhere to BFI’s Diversity Standards set in 2014. Film-makers will have to show they’ve “worked to increase the representation of under-represented groups” in areas including “onscreen representation” and “industry access and opportunities”.

It’s an exciting move towards a more eclectic range of award winners as those casting the votes apply a more discerning eye on the representation of people on screen. Plus in an industry based on who you know not just what you know, it’ll be beneficial for these heads to knock within the member club as they construct and uphold the values of the film & TV establishment. 

Red Carpet Rules

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Ahh the red carpet. The flashbulbs, the glitz, the tux and tiaras, the protestors dressed as sausages… No this wasn’t the premiere for Sausage Party (the unsavoury animation which we couldn’t actually finish) – this was a call to arms that highlighted the lack of women in film and TV spurred on by Sophie Mathisten – founder of WIFT (Women In Film and Television). Sophie led her comrades to the red carpet of the Australian Academy of Cinema and TV Arts Awards dressed as sausages, chanting ‘end the sausage party’ before falling down in formation.

Of the 28 nominated films, only two were directed by women inspiring the protest. Sophie told the Guardian: “AACTA purports to be a celebration of Australia screen excellence, and at the moment it’s a celebration of a very, very narrow part of the industry. There are a huge number of women that are working outside of the system that don’t even get a look-in.”

This isn’t the first time this year the red carpet was used for a stage of disgruntlement. In September,  Bridget Jones’s Baby actor Sarah Solemani wielded a sign saying “BUDGET THE BABY: Fund crèches on film sets #RaisingFilms” to highlight the organisation that helps parents juggle filmmaking careers and babies. Sarah shared her dismay at the lack of consideration the film industry provides parents: “As an actor I can claim a massage or a facial, but I can’t claim childcare. Actors are the most pampered people on sets. It’s the crews who are often on set at 4am.”
Red carpets will always draw media attention, so it’s inspiring to see those tired of being asked about the designer gown they’re wearing turn the tables and use their platform for something more useful.

Forbes for Thought 
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Another list, another woman on top. This time Scarlett Johansson heads up 2016’s ‘highest grossing’ actor list according to finance moguls Forbes Magazine. Her reported global box office takings amount to a hefty $1.2 billion, which takes into account the huge Captain America: Civil War and the quirksome Hollywood hunk fest that was Hail, Caesar! The rest of the list doesn’t look too bad for women in general (providing you’re white and fair-haired) as Margot Robbie, Amy Adams and Felicity Jones also take a spot in the top 10. As for people of colour, just the one – the peerless Fresh Prince – Will Smith.

 

Coming Up! 

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Our First Event for 2017…

Another year has gone by and we’re still going strong and already making big plans for 2017. It wouldn’t be so without your support and love which keeps us fuelled and passionate about the things we do. Our first event of the year will be a rare screening of Margaret on January 9 at Picturehouse Central. In true BTF form we’ll be hosting a conversation and with Margaret, led by an irresistibly brattish Anna Paquin, we’re investigating the representations of ‘Nasty Women’ and neurotic women on screen. Join us as we count down our faves in our intro and grab a chance to watch Kenneth Lonergan’s masterpiece ahead of his Oscar-tipped Manchester By The Sea (which makes a great companion piece for Margaret). Buy your ticket, bring your most best friend and we’ll see you there! Book Now.

We’re judging at London Short Film Festival!

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We’re delighted to be starting the year off by making an appearance at the always awesome London Short Film Festival. We’re judging the Best Female Director category and will be screening the winning film at a forthcoming BTF event! Agreeing to this sounded like a good idea at the time but it’s proving to be really tricky given the exceptionally high standard of entries. Alas, there can only be one winner – so stay tuned for our top pick of female directing talent. Check the LSFF program.

Final thoughts for a more feminist cinema in 2017 and beyond…

It may have been a gloomy 2016 and 2017 doesn’t come with any promises but here’s to doing what we can to enjoy, discuss and question art, look out for one another and join the crusades that help give us a place in the world. Here’s just five resolutions we can all apply in the hope of equality of women, all women, in film. Embrace the force! Read.

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