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This London film festival has unveiled its line-up, and it’s a cause for celebration for female directors

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Emily Reynolds
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The BFI London Film Festival has got 40 per cent female directors

Female filmmakers are often overlooked – and it’s something the BFI is looking to address.

The BFI London Film Festival is the UK’s biggest film festival, attracting thousands of visitors with its diverse schedule of talks, screenings and more, illuminating everything from brand new filmmakers to classic auteurs. And this year, 40% of those directors will be women – the highest number yet.

Film, traditionally, is not the most welcoming place for women. The #TIMESUP movement has worked to expose the often appalling and abusive work environments for many young women in the industry, and statistics around female representation are still shockingly low.

According to the Centre for the Study of Women in Television and Film, just 20% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on 2018’s top 250 grossing films were women – an increase of just 2% since 2017. Only 1% of films employed 10 or more women in those roles compared to 74% who employed 10 or more men.

As for directing, just 8% were women – a figure that had actually decreased by 3% since 2017, and that was 1% lower than the 9% achieved ten years ago in 1998. 

The film industry has a way to go when it comes to gender equality

The BFI festival, which takes place in October, will be celebrating the “diverse landscape of international cinema”, showcasing films set to “entertain, inspire, provoke debate and tackle the urgent issues of our time” – especially relevant, BFI CEO Amanda Nevill says, at a moment when the UK itself is “adapting and reshaping our place in the world”.

“The festival really underlines the soft power of the art of film and showcases the dynamism of global exchange and partnership,” she says. “All the BFI’s culture programmes have sought to be an active champion at the heart of the global cinema story and this year’s LFF does this so powerfully with its incredibly rich and diverse programme and the international filmmaking community who love being here.” 

Films will include Marielle Heller’s A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood, which stars Tom Hanks as US TV personality Fred Rogers, Claire Oakley’s Make Up, set on a remote Cornwall caravan park, and Jill Culton’s cute animation Abominable, about a young girl and a yeti. 

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Tricia Tuttle, director of the festival, said that its greatness came from London’s position as “one of the most vibrant and international cities in the world”.

“While there are many talking points emerging from this year’s programme, a few really leap out: the strong instinct from filmmakers to explore urgent social and political issues through narrative and often through the use of genre; the striking emergence of a a new generation of filmmakers exploding onto the international stage with startlingly bold, original and ambitious debuts; the continuing and welcome trend of increased gender balance in directing talent behind short film, first and second features.”

The festival runs from 2-13 October 2019. Find out more here

Image: Getty

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Emily Reynolds

Emily Reynolds is a journalist and author based in London. Her first book, A Beginner’s Guide to Losing Your Mind, came out in February 2017 with Hodder & Stoughton. She is currently working on her second.  

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