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The BFI is celebrating women in film with a female-focused festival

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Megan Murray
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There’s never been a better time to enjoy a mate date at the cinema, with the BFI (British Film Institute) set to celebrate the joys and complexities of female friendship on the silver screen for a whole seven weeks.

From the shamefully low number of films that pass the Bechdel test to the reduced number of female directors, women have long been misrepresented in the film industry - both on and off screen.

But things are finally changing and, in a timely move, the BFI has chosen to launch a seven-week-long film festival to celebrate female friendship on-screen.

Aptly named Girlfriends, the season of films will run from Thursday 1 February to Tuesday 20 March and celebrate female friendship in all its forms.

Showing old classics and new hits, the season will offer the perfect blend of titles you know all too well, such as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes starring Marilyn Monroe, alongside niche flicks you might not have heard of.

Brilliantly, not only is the festival a chance to explore a range of cinema from all around the world, but the season will concentrate solely on showcasing portraits of well developed female characters who are not defined by their relationship to men. 

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

The season will showcase all kinds of heroines, from the schoolgirl friendship depicted in Jane Campion’s rarely-seen film 2 Friends, to the endlessly quotable titular characters in Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion.

Even better, not only are those in-front of the camera predominantly female, the majority of films being shown will also have female directors and scriptwriters.

And it is crucial that organisations like this continue to press on this matter. With zero women nominated for best director at this year’s Golden Globes, and the number of films currently being directed by women sitting at a staggeringly low 4%, it is time for change.

The BFI have embraced this chance to take up the feminist mantle, calling it a “timely celebration of sisterhood”, which is something Stylist couldn’t be more behind - so we’ve decided to lend our support and partner with the season ourselves.

A total of 20 films will be shown over the season, and because it’s not enough to simply broadcast the female-lead blockbusters that already exist, each feature will be paired with a short film by an up-and-coming woman filmmaker to champion the need for more female talent in this field.

Valentine’s Day sits just two weeks into the season, and in celebration of the love we have for our female friends, the BFI will be offering a Galentine’s screening of cult hit Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion. This special screening will be followed by a Skype Q&A with screenwriter Robin Schiff and a 90s Prom Party – so bring your scrunchies.

Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion

Other events taking place in February will include a discussion of Sally Potter’s feminist classic The Gold Diggers, and a six-week evening course investigating the changing culture around women’s filmmaking called Women’s Film: Changing the Guard.

And, if you’re anything like us, you’ll also be a huge fan of some of the female characters portrayed on the smaller screen, namely the incredible Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag and Stylist cover star Michaela Coel’s Tracey Gordon in Chewing Gum. TV fans will get the chance to explore these characters further in March, when there will be a special event called Thank You for Being a Friend, examining shows which feature honest, complex and hilarious portrayals of female friendship including Girls, Broad City, Fleabag, Insecure and Chewing Gum.

You can find the full list of screenings below and a link to buy tickets here:

Showing in February:

Galentine’s Day: Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion + Skype Q&A with screenwriter Robin Schiff + Prom Party
Tuesday 13 February 18:15 and Saturday 17 February 20:45

Dance Girl Dance
Saturday 24 February 14:30 and Monday 26 February 18:20

The Girls
Thursday 1 February 18:20 and Sunday 4 February 19:50

Muriel’s Wedding 
Saturday 10 February 18:10 and Wednesday 28 February 20:50

Come Back to the 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean
Saturday 10 February 20:30 and Friday 16 February 18:10

Me Without You
Saturday 17 February 18:00 and Tuesday 20 February 20:40

Double Trouble: Early Female Comedy Double Acts
Sunday 4 February 15:30

The Gold Diggers 
Monday 5 February 18:30

The Experimenta Salon: The Gold Diggers
Monday 5 February 20:10

BFI Course: Women’s Film: Changing the Guard
Presented by Helen De Witt, film programmer and lecturer. Course fee £72, concs £60
Every Tuesday from 6th February – 13 March 18:30 – 20:30

Showing in March (all dates to be confirmed):

Martha and Niki

Beaches 

Walking and Talking 

Now and Then

Poison Ivy 

The Women

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes 

Daisies 

Girlfriends 

2 Friends

Nine to Five 

Happy Hour + introduction by Kate Taylor and Pascale Moyse 

Projecting the Archive: Smashing Time + introduction by Melanie Williams

Take a look at a snapshot of what you could be watching next month below:

This is an opportunity to sit back, relax and eat popcorn while supporting women in the film industry - sounds pretty good to us. 

See more on the BFI website here

Images: Rex