Birds Eye View Film Festival
Kicking off this Thursday March 5th.
Words by Imogen Eveson
Whether you're male or female, feminist or otherwise, it would difficult for anybody to feel indifferent about the stark figure that only 7% of directors are women.
"The statistics are so shocking! 20% would be bad, but seven?!" exclaims Rachel Millward, founder of Birds Eye View, the world's first film festival that supports and celebrates women filmmakers.
Making micro-budget short films with Pinny Grylls led Rachel to the discovery of the galling statistic. "We were very aware of the lack of role models for us - it was really hard at the time to name more than one or 2 female directors. We wanted to create a platform for our peers - to encourage and promote. So we began BEV as a short film event at the end of 2002, then I pushed it forward into a festival for 2005."
Now in its fifth year, Birds Eye View is about to kick off again, with a week's worth of cinematic festivities taking place from the 5th - 13th March between the BFI, ICA and other London venues. The bill encompasses everything from feature length documentaries ("American Teen is a fantastic doc. It's proper laughing-crying entertaining - and heart-wrenching at the same time") to French comedy ("Grown Ups is a gorgeous feature - like reading a brilliant novel - characters you get to love...").With shorts coming in all shapes and sizes, from animation, documentary and drama by both UK and international directors. Innovation strand hosts high calibre films from the realms of music and fashion, providing a glimpse into the world of digital advertising. With journalist and broadcaster Miranda Sawyer at the helm, Music Loves Video features the work of rising star Kinga Burza, Ali Taylor and Shelly Love.
Fashion Loves Film director Kathryn Ferguson has cherry-picked some fine sartorial flicks from Katerina Jebb for Givenchy, Sarah Chatfield for YSL, Toyin for Replay and Nick Knight's first assistant, Ruth Hogben.
Screen Seductresses: Vamps, Vixens & Femmes Fatales, is an intriguing event featuring Louise Brooks, Theda Bara, Greta Garbo and Alla Nazimova as the vampish protagonists of six silent films screened with specially commissioned live music from cutting edge female artists, such as Bishi. "I always love the live music - silent film stuff," enthuses Rachel. "Bishi is a phenomenal performer - she seriously kicks ass - I can't wait to see what she does with the film Salome. I imagine it will be hot hot hot."
A festival's focus is remarkable women from developing countries. "We have some amazing women filmmakers visiting for Q&As with their film screenings - from India (Goddesses, part of the Connecting Voices event) and Nigeria (giving us a guided tour of Nollywood), and from Afghanistan too. It's such a special opportunity to learn from women who are cutting it in film in very, very different situations from ours.."
Each year a theme is flagged up and debated at the festival and this time round the hot topic is sex on screen. Director Carine Adler, award-winning porn director Petra Joy, former Erotic Review editor Rowan Pelling, Coco de Mer's Sam Roddick and Mike Figgis will all be on hand for some steamy discussion as to how sex is portrayed in film when a woman takes control.
"I guess the main differences between men and women when approaching sex in film correlate to the differences between men and women when approaching sex in the bedroom," Rachel says. "You only have to watch a few Hollywood sex scenes to figure it's full of magic women who come on thrusting-cue and has very little to do with the clitoris. Watch a film like 'In the Cut' (Jane Campion directed and crucially written by a woman), and you find yourself shocked to see Mark Ruffalo go down on Meg Ryan. I'm no expert, but I don't think that's so unusual in real life, is it?!"
With such a scope and wealth of ideas, it's no surprise that Birds Eye has garnered the support of some famous faces; counting Joanna Lumley, Martha Fiennes and Juliet Stevenson as patrons. The late Anthony Minghella stated in 2005 how 'alarming and odd' it was that 'film is currently the preserve largely of white men.'
If the passionate team behind Birds Eye View have anything to do with it, this is changing. The festival will continue to inspire ideas and confidence in a new generation of female filmmakers and artists, or at the very least, make for a highly enjoyable few days (and nights, lest you forget Friday 13th's closing night party...)
Check out some Birds Eye View on jotta here
And the ful festival programme at www.birds-eye-view.co.uk.