Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Brilliant women, brilliant films

2013 can start! The Underwire Film Festival and the Birds Eye View Film Festival have big new news, events, screenings, talks and talent. 

Two of the UK most original, positive, distinctive and exciting film festivals have made exciting announcements this week, opening 2013 in proper style.

Underwire was set up to celebrate the art and craft of the short film and the many women making exceptional, original new work at all levels of the industry from production and technicals to writing, composing and acting. I was involved a little with Underwire 2011 and was thrilled to encounter so much inspiring new work and meet so many inspiring, talented women - and I include the dynamic, brilliant producers of the festival itself in that.

Incidentally, submissions are open for Underwire 2013. The producers are looking for the best work from female directors, producers, writers, editors, cinematographers, composers, actors, sound designers, interesting representations of women on screen and outstanding work from a female practitioner under 25. If you've got a short film under 20 mins, in any genre from music videos to documentaries, dramas to animations. Click here for more information and the submission form. And it all proves, as I have written a thousand times in a thousand articles, that when They try to justify Their extreme under-representation of women at arts events, film festivals, panel events, press tours, TV and radio programmes etc etc by saying that women are scarce, or shy, or not 'out there', they are lying.

Underwire is now branching out and will be partnering with the London Comedy Film Festival from January 24th - 27th January. The cute logo is below.

The event they've curated, Working Women, is a day-long celebration of smart, funny women on screen. It will be held at the BFI on Saturday 26th January from 9am until 6pm and will be followed by drinks hosted by Funny Women. Tickets are £65 and can be bought here. Underwire/LOCO/BFI will be previewing new work from some of Britain's best women writers, discussing how to write better female roles across the board, debating the opportunities - or lack of them - for women in the industry and hosting discussions with some very special guests including writer and actress Julia Davis; actress, comedian and writer Katy Brand; writer and Inbetweeners star Jessica Knappett; comedian, actress, writer and musician Isy Suttie; actress Caroline Quentin; writer and Twenty Twelve star Sara Pascoe and performance artist Bobby Baker.

And there are many more, equally inspiring events:
  • A Herstory of Comedy on Screen: Being funny and a woman isn't anything new. This celebratory romp through the history of funny women on screen picks out a new unforgettable comedy gems that continue to inspire and entertain.
  • In Conversation with Julia Davis and Lucy Lumsden: Join writer and actress Julia Davis and Sky's Head of Comedy Lucy Lumsden as they discuss their collaborative relationship over the years and recount the journey of their work together on Human Remains, Nighty Night, Lizzie and Sarah, Julia Davis's Little Cracker and most recently the award-winning Hunderby.
  • Rachel Mars: Extract from The Way You Tell Them: Rachel Mars is a performer maker; working in theatre, live art and comedy. Her new piece - The Way You Tell Them - is an interrogation of the compulsion and desire to be funny. It's about going beyond the gag, plan ol' laughing and families that use jokes in places that aren't necessarily normal. The Way You Tell Them is a funny, thought-provoking performance that uses real life material, classic oral sex jokes and a wold suit to see what happens when you don't always go for the easy laugh....
  • Rachel will also be joining a panel of comedy talent - Caroline Quentin, Sara Pascoe, Bobby Baker - whose work draws upon some of the issues raised in the performance. The panel, hosted by Lynne Parker from Funny Women, will be asked to ponder on the idea of comedy at home, comedy within families, as well as questioning whether confessional humour is something that is particularly popular with women and the possibilities and problems this can bring. 
  • Working Women with Natalie Haynes: Writer and broadcaster Natalie Haynes hosts a panel of writer/performers Katy Brand, Jessica Knappett and Isy Suttie as they talk about the challenges and excitements of working in comedy, how they've built their career and what advice they would give to aspiring creatives wanting to follow in their footsteps.
  • The UK Premiere of Julie Delpy's Le Skylab 

And I've saved the biggest and best news for last....

An image from Wadjda, directed by Haifaa Al Mansour,
screening at BEV 2013

There's a lot of great news on this front, a lot of it close to my heart (and my work) because of this year's focus on excellent film-makers in the Middle East. But first there's some wonderful behind-the-scenes news:

Birds Eye View have a new creative direction, Kate Gerova, whose previous position was as Head of Distribution at Soda Pictures. Kate's appointment comes alongside a pledge to increase BEV's impact through a greater offer for filmmakers, a fresh focus on talent development and deeper collaboration with the wider film industry. This follows a phase of strategic planning to reaffirm and re-invigorate BEV's core mission to celebrate and support women filmmakers in the UK and across the world. Kate has ten years' experience and expertise in film distribution and at Soda Pictures she had been both Head of Distribution and formerly Head of Publicity.

BEV's founding director and total inspiration Rachel Millward, who stays on as Chief Executive, says: 
We are thrilled to welcome someone so respected in the film industry at this crucial time in Birds Eye View's development. Kate brings an understanding of the economics of film, creative excellence and a strong appreciation of the marketplace and audiences. This will enable BEV to build on our significant cultural successes, and to continue supporting and celebrating international women filmmakers with ever-increasing impact.
Kate Gerova says:
I'm delighted to join Birds Eye View at a time with huge potential for international growth, with the creative vision of female talent gaining increased prominence at leading international festivals and on our screens. I will be building on BEV's track record of fantastic and innovative programming and events, while also developing year round activities to inspire, educate and broker more opportunities for women filmmakers.
Founded in 2002, BEV has since become internationally renowned as a driving force in celebrating, supporting and empowering women in the world’s most powerful medium, film. BEV works year-round to promote new releases by women filmmakers, support new female talent through development labs, and act as an advocate for women in the industry. 

Bird's Eye View's full International Film Festival will be relaunched in 2014 as a biennial event as the organisers believe that the alternate years will allow greater space for talent development and to focus on specific regions and themes. 

BEV attracted over 11,000 people in 2011, when highlights included the London premieres of Susanne Bier’s Oscar & Golden Globe winner In A Better World and Lena Dunham’s SXSW & NY Critics Award winner Tiny Furniture, plus new silent film scores by musicians including Grammy winner Imogen Heap, Seaming and Micachu. It has been invaluable in showing everyone who loves film and likes and respects women just how much excellence, activity, inspiration and creative brilliance is out there, not just in the UK but all over the world and not just in feature films but also in documentaries and many other art forms. Nobody can now deny just how many active, ambitious and talent women are creating vital work, which deserves not just to be acknowledged but also seen, celebrated, discussed and nurtured. BEV has also brought women of brilliance from many arts and cultural disciplines together to rediscover forgotten directors from all eras of film, create original music through their highly innovative Sounds and Silents project (which I have written about here), conduct Q&As with contemporary directors of both established influence and exciting new work and participate in debates, talks, discussions and symposia which resurrect women of the past, celebrate women of the present and reach out to the cool girls who will become the great women of the future. 

I can't wait to see what the coming years hold.

But first! BEV has announced the first events for its 2013 Film Festival. The full line-up will be announced soon - watch this space - but I'm really excited to notice this year's focus on celebrating Arab Women Filmmakers. Details below:

  • Beginning in International Women's Week, BEV 2013 includes its returning International Women's Day Gala with a pre-release screening of Venice award-winner Wadjda on Friday 8th March (tickets £13.80/£10.30 concs) at BFI Southbank, plus an exclusive Q&A with director Haifaa Al Mansour, Saudi Arabia's first woman feature film director.  Hailed as "Boundary-pushing cinema in all the best ways" by the Telegraph, Wadjda won multiple awards at the Venice Film Festival for its inspiring, sharply humorous and gently subversive look at a life in modern-day Riyadh. Rebellious schoolgirl Wadjda wants a bicycle. When her parents refuse, she determines to raise the money herself. And with her mother distracted by her husband’s plans to take a second wife, Wadjda may just have a chance...
  • The world premiere of a new live silent film score on Thursday 7th March at Southbank Centre (tickets £15/£7.50 concs) by rising star composer and current LSO Panufnik Scheme resident Bushra El-Turk, fusing classical Western and traditional Middle Eastern musical styles (full event listings below). Bushra El-Turk's music will be accompanying a screening of the world’s first animated feature film, Prince Achmed, an enchanting, sharply humorous and visually dazzling classic based on The Arabian Nights. 
  • The main 2013 Film Festival will run from 3-10 April with a programme of feature, documentary and short films from Arab women directors at BFI Southbank and Barbican, plus specially commissioned live silent scores from British Arab musicians. 
  • For more details contact Will Young, BEV Producer, on will@birds-eye-view.co.uk

What can I say? Go, enjoy, be thrilled.

Text (c) Underwire and (c) Birds Eye View