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The 10 Female-Led Films To Watch Now And Name Drop Later

This year's London Film Festival promises a bumper crop of female-focused film-making...

Thanks to the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, film’s gender problem is very much a trending topic. Women working in the industry, in front of and behind the camera, have made compelling arguments for better representation and parity, while female-led casts like the Ocean’s 8 girl gang have proved a hit at the box office. Despite this, so many major film festivals still seem unable to recognise and champion female talent. At Cannes, just three of the films in competition were directed by women; things were yet more woeful at Venice, considered to be the launchpad for Oscar hopes. Here, just one woman made the cut.

In London, however, things are looking far more hopeful. In August, the BFI London Film Festival unveiled its latest programme, with 38 percent of films directed by women and a 50/50 gender split in three-quarters of its competition strands. ‘We don’t set out with quotas, but we are very conscious of wanting to explore many perspectives, to hear new voices, to champion discovery,’ explains Tricia Tuttle, acting Artistic Director of Festivals for the BFI. ‘We’re acutely aware of the astonishing gender gap in the film industry; it’s something we have been working on for several years and we do usually index well on gender and global diversity.’ Given that the festival falls almost exactly one year on from the first sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein, it must have felt particularly important to spotlight female voices and highlight twelve months of what Tuttle describes as ‘seismic change and positively focused anger.’

When addressing the gender question, it’s become eye-rollingly common to hear programme directors blame the lack of female representation on a lack of quality work. But for Tricia, this is simply not the case. While recognising that ‘different festivals have different regulations,’ she notes that, for her team, ‘it was not difficult to find exceptional work from female directors.’ Indeed, this year’s line-up is testament to the polyphony of diverse, challenging female voices working in the industry. Alongside more prominent directors like Marielle Heller (who will follow up Diary of a Teenage Girl with darkly comic biopic Can You Ever Forgive Me) and Carol Morley, you’ll find the work of less-established filmmakers. Tuttle’s ones to watch include ‘Too Late To Die Young, a really exquisite coming-of-age film set in post-Pinochet Chile,’ and ‘though a harrowing watch, Sudabeh Mortezai’s Joy is an extraordinary and urgent exploration of immigrant sex trafficking in Europe.'

With this in mind, we've sorted through the programme to find the biggest films (and one TV show) that are championing women: whether that means female talent behind the camera, narratives written by and for women or brilliant performances from the industry's best actresses, both new and established. Remember these names come Oscar season...

The BFI London Film Festival runs from 10-21 October. Tickets available now from www.bfi.org.uk/lff