This year’s BAFTAs are set to be more exciting than usual, thanks to a diverse shortlist that shows the voters are truly opening their eyes to the world around them, and nominating fresh new talent along with the usual big names. Particularly refreshing? The Best Director category, which acknowledges the work of four female directors.
They are Chloé Zhao, for Nomadland, Shannon Murphy for Babyteeth, Jasmila Žbanić for Quo Vadis Aida? And Sarah Gavron for Rocks. The two men rounding up the category are Thomas Vinterberg for Another Round and Lee Isaac Chung for Minari. It’s an exciting development, showing that women’s voices are finally being heard in the industry. Could this be a tipping point that leads to a brighter spotlight on such work from the past?
Earlier this week, the British Film Instutute marked International Women’s Day by launching a new series on BFI Player, its film streaming service. Called Women With a Movie Camera, the films enlist notable women in film to introduce a work by a female director that has moved them, and influenced their own careers. Women including Lydia West of It’s A Sin, Natalie Dormer of Game of Thrones and Ruth Wilson of Luther are among the contributors.
‘It does a thoughtful job of portraying the intensity and the potent dynamics that bind young women,’ says Natalie of her choice, Sandra Goldbacher’s Me Without You, which stars a young Michelle Williams and Anna Friel.
‘Emotionally I think the film has a tremendous authenticity and realism to it especially in the detail. There were a couple of times when I was cringing and had to almost turn from the screen because it was so accurately reminiscent of some of my own long past experience. We (Sandra Goldbacher and I) had a great chat about the intensity of those early years, those early formative female friendships, and how you can almost get stuck with that weird co-dependency to the detriment to romantic relationships and as this film so eloquently handles to the detriment of your inner self and growing of identity. The film handles the guilt of trying to pull free from that very effectively, so it’s a great emotional narrative piece.’
Ruth, meanwhile, chose Céline Sciamma’s Tomboy. ‘This to me is cinema at its finest,’ she says. ‘It’s not because of its scale or grandeur, it’s because of its nuance, its subtlety and its insight. The cinematography is extraordinary, the performances are exquisite. Not least from Zoé Héran who plays Laure. And why do I think this film is masterful? It’s because there’s not one frame or one sentence that feels superfluous. The gaze of the lens and the camera is so concise and clear that it watches these characters with utter compassion and raw truth, and as a result Celine Sciamma creates this extraordinary bond between subject and audience. I felt like I was in this hypnotic bubble for 80 minutes, created by one of the most exciting directors around.’
The other introductions coming soon include:
Susan Wokoma introduces Prevenge, directed by and starring Alice Lowe
Lydia West introduces Tucker Green’s Second Coming
Director Eva Riley introduces Carine Adler’s Under the Skin
Director Zeina Durra introduces Lucrecia Martel’s The Headless Woman
Hanna Flint introduces Clio Barnard’s The Arbour
Hannah Woodhead introduces Andrea Arnold’s Red Road
You can find the Women With A Movie Camera series here.