The BFI London Film Festival is almost upon us again! It seems like moments since last year’s festival preview, but another group of films are straining at the leash, desperate to be set free upon a public pining for silver-screen adventure.
The long-standing injustice of the under-representation of women both in front of and behind the camera is finally getting some traction. The number of women directors is up from last year, and the great folk at Little White Lies have produced a list of all 114 films (features & shorts) directed or co-directed by women at this year’s event. Belle director Amma Asante’s A United Kingdom is a great pick to open the 12 days of cinema, while big festival hitters such as Andrea Arnold’s American Honey and Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann are special Gala shows. There is SO MUCH FURTHER to go on this, with just 24% of all films making the women’s list. These films deserve promotion, celebration and packed-out screenings, to inspire the next generation of women filmmakers. Here, in no particular order, are 5 picks that have me crossing off the days on my calendar.
LFF tickets are on sale to members right now, with general sale tickets opening Thursday 15th September at 10am.
5. Certain Women – Kelly Reichardt
A writer/director with over twenty years experience to call on, Reichardt’s Night Moves was one of the most underrated films of 2014. With Michelle Williams, Laura Dern and Kristen Stewart starring, there should be plenty of attention for this soft drama about the connected lives of several women in Montana. As well as the trailer below, check out this breathtakingly simple poster.
4. Divines – Houda Benyamina
It’s 6 years since a woman picked up the Sutherland Trophy for Best First Feature at LFF; it’s 14 years since a non-English woman won the award. Both unfortunate runs could be broken with Houda Benyamina’s Divines, a feminist gangster flick on what is usually male terrain. Teenager Dounia navigates her way through the crime-filled Parisian suburbs, in a fast-paced, emotional tale. The trailer has more energy that many whole films. One to watch for the future, but really, one to watch now.
3. Chasing Asylum – Eva Orner
‘The film the Australian government doesn’t want you to see’. Throughout the tragedy that was the referendum debate and eventual Brexit vote, we repeatedly heard the phrase ‘Australian-style points system’ from the Leave campaign. I’d wager few on either side could tell you what it means. This perfectly placed documentary from Oscar winner Eva Orner (Taxi to the Dark Side) will show the brutal, inhumane reality behind the empty phrases, and mustn’t be missed for those who want to stay informed in this ongoing conversation.
2. Queen Of Katwe – Mira Nair
For three years, all of us have been stumbling through a barren, (mainly) Lupita Nyong’o-less desert. Finally, there is some sweet relief. Queen Of Katwe is the true story of a Ugandan girl (newcomer Madina Nalwanga) who tries to escape abject poverty through her extraordinary ability at chess. Nyong’o is her mother, and with the talents of established director Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding, The Reluctant Fundamentalist) and 12 Years a Slave DP Sean Bobbitt leading the way, this should quench our collective Lupita thirst. Well, at least briefly.
1. Prevenge – Alice Lowe
Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace. Hot Fuzz. Sightseers. Alice Lowe has a comedy CV as strong as anyone, and with the triple threat (written/directed/starred) Prevenge, she takes centre stage as Ruth, an expectant mother whose behaviour is the last thing we’d expect. There’s a killer supporting cast, including Jo Hartley (This Is England), Kate Dickie (The Witch) and Lowe’s Sightseers mother Eileen Davies. Perhaps most remarkably, Lowe was actually 7 months pregnant while filming. That has to be worth checking out…
So get exercising your mouse finger ahead of the ticket release on the 15th, and stay tuned to DOTD for more LFF previews!