Women Take Centre Stage At This Year’s London Film Festival

On screen and behind the scenes, there are more women represented in the festival than ever before. Grazia speaks to the filmmakers behind this years lineup...

Passing

by Victoria Gill |

The last few years have been incredibly difficult for the UK arts and entertainment industries. Film, TV, radio and photography have lost an estimated £2.6bn, and though cinemas and venues are reopening; many of us are still fearful of live events. That said, after almost two years of intermittent lockdowns, cinema is slowly starting to get back on it's feet again. Daniel Craig's final Bond film, No Time to Die just smashed box office records, and this autumn, there's a whole slew of new releases to get excited about.

The London Film Festival is an event that highlights just that. From Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut The Lost Daughter, to Rebecca Hall, who has transformed Nella Larsen 1929 book: Passing into a film starring Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga; this years line-up features a wide range of compelling stories, with women leading on and off-screen.

Starting tonight and running till the 17th October, the festival will premier 159 films. 'It is absolutely amazing to be back to a large-scale live event, albeit one that has many entry points for people who either can’t make it to London or who are not yet ready to go back to live events' says Festival Director, Tricia Tuttle.

People are missing shared cultural moments – theatre, live music, exhibitions and cinema. There is something really magical that happens when you see art with other people.

She wants this year festival to make up for the shared moments we've been missing. 'We may have read great books and watched some great film and TV at home in the last 20 months but people are missing shared cultural moments – theatre, live music, exhibitions and cinema. There is something really magical that happens when you see art with other people and this is especially true of film. Your heart races, you might cry or laugh, you sit in the dark and experience moments of real intimacy and transformation with other people. I love it and can’t wait to share these incredible films over the 12 days of LFF.'

She reassures audiences that, 'we are still very much in a pandemic and our LFF planning has had to reflect that – my team have had to become Covid protocol experts'. She also admits having to bring back a few elements from the 2020 festival such as a selection of feature films online; great news for viewers who aren't able to attend the London screenings.

'Covid has laid bare many inequalities, and people have become much more conscious of systemic racism and the many biases that work against inclusion. We need to hang on to the awareness and act on it. The UK industry does need to address a lack of diversity and inclusion especially in senior echelons, and in positions of cultural leadership. The last year has really underlined how much the film industry – and festivals – need to do to become more inclusive of audiences who might have access requirements that are not being met.'

This year's festival featuring a record number of women directors we have seen, a figure that has grown from last years 40% of filmmakers. Whether you’re heading to the festival, watching online or simply planning your next cinema trip, here are Grazia’s pick of the best women-centred films on of the films helmed by women

QUANT

Sadie Frost's career in film spans over four decades and during this time she's also launched her own fashion brands including FrostFrench - which may have given her a unique insight into the inspiration for her new film Quant; documentary film about the fashion designer Dame Mary Quant.

Mary Quant was one of most influential designers of the 20th Century and was largely behind the style revolution of the ’60s and ’70. Famed for shifting away from conservative styles, she designed pieces that are iconic today; hotpants and micro miniskirts not too dissimilar to those featured on the Miu Miu catwalk this week.

Quant's designs reoccurring in fashion in 2021 is a reason why Frost wanted to include cultural figures of today. Stars such as Kate Moss, Vivienne Westwood, and makeup legend Charlotte Tilbury all feature in the film. 'I really wanted people who are prominent now, to pinpoint the relevance of Mary and her work in today’s fashion and beauty' says Frost. 'All three women are powerhouses just like Mary and their careers have spanned decades'.

Audiences will get an intimate look into Quant's life and the way she managed to build an empire whilst juggling motherhood. Frost told Grazia: 'she was a revolutionary that empowered women and was a figurehead for The British invasion. What surprised me most was how she fought for her privacy by doing all of this and being a doting mother.'

Get tickets for Quant, 9 and 10 October, Curzon Mayfair and Curzon Soho

ALI & AVA

Ali & Ava is written and directed by Clio Barnard who is renowned for her authentic portrayal of northern England. Starring Adeel Akhtar and Claire Rushbrook, it's set in Bradford, West Yorkshire; close to home for Clio Barnard who was born in Leeds.

The film centers around a middle-aged love story, and representing age diversity was a priority for the director. 'It was important. I’m not sure that middle aged women get much of a look in when it comes to the big screen - especially when it comes to love stories. '

Music and humour play a huge part in Ali & Ava, 'the always do when you’re falling in love don’t they?' says Clio. 'My first kiss was at Bradford Ice Rink when I was a teenager. It was my birthday. A boy I didn’t know, a stranger, whisked me off the ice and into the little corridor that led to the DJ booth. He kissed me and then skated away - so I’ve always associated Bradford with music and romance.'

Get tickets for Ali & Ava, 13th and 14th October at The Southbank Centre.

THE POWER OF THE DOG

Jane Campion made history as the first woman to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival back In 1993 with The Piano. The Power of the Dog is her long-awaited and highly anticipated second feature film.

Shot in New Zealand (where Campion is from), the film is set in 1925 and hones in on the tension between two brothers Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George (Jesse Plemons). It promises to be both a slow burning psychodrama, and a modern Western.

Get tickets for The Power of the Dog, 11 and 12 October at The Southbank Centre.

PASSING

Dealing with race, sexuality, marriage and relationships, Passing follows two childhood friends and their fascination with each other's lives. Rebecca Hall's directorial debut may be based on the 1929 novel by Nella Larsen, but it couldn't be more relevant today. Following a woman who passes as white in Harlem in the early 20's, the black-and-white drama explores the ways in which we all pass for something...

Get tickets for Passing, 12 October at The Southbank Centre

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