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The female film directors making history

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Helen Bownass
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As the London Film Festival celebrates a historic year for women behind the camera, get to know these female creatives

What do you call a group of women directors? No idea, because we never get to see them!

Jokes aside, female directors’ contribution to film has historically been largely overlooked/under-appreciated. But this year’s London Film Festival is a lesson in celebrating the women behind the camera. There is a record 38% of female directors across the programme, while 50% of films in the Official Competition and Short Film Competition are directed or co-directed by women and 60% of films in the First Feature Competition. That is, by all accounts, a lot of women. Especially when you bear in mind the fact that, at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, only 14% of films were directed by women. And that was also the festival’s best showing of the so-called fairer sex since 2011. Sigh. 

2018’s Female Filmmakers 

While it’s a bit depressing that gender parity is a cause for celebration, we intend to keep shouting about it until we get to a point where it’s normalised. So much so that this Friday, Stylist’s entertainment director Helen Bownass will be hosting a panel with six female directors showing at the festival, where she will talk to them about their work, the industry and how we can keep moving forwards together.

With that in mind, these are the names you need to know about…

Director Euzhan Palcy 

Euzhan Palcy

Martiniquais director Euzhan Palcy is a pioneering creative; the first black female director of a film by a major studio (A Dry White Season, MGM) and the first black director to direct an actor nominated for an Academy Award (Marlon Brando), Palcy’s remarkable 1983 debut Sugar Cane Alley restored in 4K, tells the story of Jose, spirited and smart orphan. Set in the Thirties, the coming of age film focuses on his relationship with his grandmother, a woman who gives up everything to see him reach his potential. 

Director Sara Colangelo 

Sara Colangelo

In The Kindergarten Teacher, by New York director Sara Colangelo, Maggie Gyllenhaal delivers her best performance yet as Lisa Spinelli, a teacher who becomes obsessed with a prodigiously talented young poet in her class. Colangelo ensures that Spinelli is likeable but also deeply flawed; an anti-hero for 2018.  

Director Amanda Kramer 

Amanda Kramer 

A birthday party descends into a fevered trippy nightmare when eight girls are trapped after an earthquake in Ladyworld. The group soon begin manifesting deeply disturbed behavior as they grow increasingly suspicious about The Man who might be lurking in the basement. Los Angeles director and screenwriter Amanda Kramer tackles rape-culture and impending womanhood in this surreal and dark feature.  

Director Georgia Parris 

Georgia Parris

Premiering at LFF, Georgia Parris’ debut Mari fuses modern dance and drama in the story of a woman at a crossroads in her life. Parris, a former actor, goes behind the camera now to navigate the difficult relationship between a dancer Charlotte (played by contemporary dancer Bobbi Jene Smith) and her mother and sister as they sit with her grandmother in the last days of her life.  

Director Xiaolu Guo

Xiaolu Guo

Born in a fishing village in China, before moving to London in 2002, acclaimed film maker and writer Xiaolu Guo offers a unique perspective on modern Britain. Newest documentary Five Men and a Caravaggio is set in the summer of the Brexit vote between East London and China, where a reproduction is being painstakingly made of Caravaggio’s portrait of John the Baptist. When the painting arrives in London it raises many questions about place and identity for the recipient and his three friends. 

Director Eva Husson 

Eva Husson

Premiering at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, as 82 women marched for equal rights, Eva Husson’s Girls of the Sun proved a historic moment. The French director’s tense film, a fictional story inspired by real women, follows a group of Kurdish female fighters on the frontline against ISIS while shadowed by a French journalist. 

London Film Festival runs until October 21st, whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff

Images: Getty, filmmakers own