All the female directors in the BFI London Film Festival

Senior Programmer Kate Taylor introduces the list of women in the director’s chair at this year’s Festival.

Kate Taylor
Updated:

Carmen and Lola, directed by Arantxa Echevarría

Carmen and Lola, directed by Arantxa Echevarría

It’s now a regular feature of film festival coverage that as soon as a programme is announced, the numbers are counted and the statistics are analysed. How many films are directed by women? What percentage of the programme?

The logical next question, although one that often gets less coverage, is: who are they?

This year the BFI London Film Festival has a higher percentage of female directors than ever before, and that tells a story about the work that has excited our programme team, and that we believe will enthral London audiences.

The more interesting stories, though, are to be found in the films themselves. As film criticism has its own moment of self-reflection on the diversity within its ranks, now is a good time to celebrate publications like Women and Hollywood, Another Gaze and cléo, among others, who continue to do the work of considering those films, interviewing female filmmakers and giving their work a depth of appreciation and critique.

There is also space to expand beyond film culture’s director-fixation, and celebrate women’s contribution to this most collaborative of artforms, as you encounter Maria Djurkovic’s production design on The Little Drummer Girl, or revel in the work of Hélène Louvart the cinematographer responsible for the penetrating visual lushness of Happy as Lazzaro, Petra and Maya. We are also hosting a timely Screen Talk with Maggie Gyllenhaal, an actress and producer, on the cusp of turning director herself with an upcoming Elena Ferrante adaptation.

Female contributions to film history in the Festival include restorations in the Treasures section, Euzhan Palcy’s Sugar Cane Alley and the films of Maria Lassnig, while a cinema pioneer is celebrated in Pamela B. Green’s Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché.

And if you are interested in taking an expansive and instinctive journey through cinema via the work of female directors including Barbara Loden, Cheryl Dunye and Binka Zhelyazkova (+ 139 more!) then I also highly recommend Mark Cousins’ Women Make Film: A New Road Movie through Cinema.

Before duly noting every film in the festival by a female filmmaker, let me entice those eyeballs towards a few highlights that may be under the radar: three particularly bold visions, each of which is sharply intelligent, makes very different formal choices and has a startling provocation at its core.

An Impossible Love, directed by Catherine Corsini

An Impossible Love, directed by Catherine Corsini

Director Catherine Corsini was last seen at BFI Southbank closing BFI Flare 2016 with her sun-kissed lesbian romance, Summertime. She returns with An Impossible Love, a film so exquisite on the surface that the emotional devastation it leaves in its wake comes as something of a shock. Based on a book by controversial novelist Christine Angot (co-writer of Claire Denis’ Let the Sunshine In), and featuring Jehnny Beth from Savages as a woman narrating the story of her parents’ romance, this is not the film that it seems as first glance, and is certainly not one you should miss.

Twenty-two Hours, directed by Bouchra Khalili

Twenty-two Hours, directed by Bouchra Khalili

Mainly shown in galleries, Bouchra Khalili’s work is poised to excite a broader cinematic audience. With the stated influences of Pier Paolo Pasolini, Chris Marker and Dziga Vertov Group-era Godard, Twenty-two Hours is a political essay film where the notion of who is telling the story is central to the film’s form. Collaborating with two young African-American women, Khalili charts Jean Genet’s 1970 visit to America in support of the Black Panther party, creating a timely exploration of activism, ally-ship and what it means to be a witness. The film, combined with short films by Morgan Quaintance, Laura Horelli and Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa, has also inspired this year’s Experimenta Debate.

House of My Fathers, directed by Suba Sivakumaran

House of My Fathers, directed by Suba Sivakumaran

Expect to hear a lot more about Suba Sivakumaran following her striking debut feature, House of My Fathers. Considering the legacy of Sri Lanka’s civil war via myth and folklore, Sivakumaran creates a world where the living and dead co-exist, as a Sinhalese man and Tamil woman travel on a journey to lift a curse. A potent mix of brutality and catharsis, it’s a film of immense beauty that does not shy away from the trauma of conflict. Intriguingly, Sivakumaran’s next project is a road-trip thriller set in London, about refugees escaping from a state whose post-Brexit immigration policy has become increasingly inhuman.

And so below we present every film in the Festival with a female director. Many of these films have tickets still available, and there is a Discovery Pass of Female Filmmakers if you would like to try three films for £30. We hope you enjoy experiencing a multitude of perspectives during the next 12 days.

23 Red / Julia Hart / short
A Is for Artist / Ayo Akingbade / short
Are You Still Singing? / Gillian Barnes / short
Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché / Pamela B. Green / feature
Been So Long / Tinge Krishnan / feature
Bergman – A Year in a Life / Jane Magnusson / feature
Between My Flesh and the World’s Fingers / Talena Sanders / short
Between Relating and Use / Nazli Dincel / short
Birds of Passage / Ciro Guerra, Cristina Gallego / feature
A Bit Lost / Hélène Ducrocq / short
The Breaker Upperers / Madeleine Sami, Jackie van Beek / feature
The Broker / Azadi Moghadam / feature
The Camel Boy / Chabname Zariâb / short
Can You Ever Forgive Me? / Marielle Heller / feature
Capernaum / Nadine Labaki / feature
Carmen and Lola / Arantxa Echevarria / feature
Catcalls / Kate Dolan / short
The Chambermaid / Lila Aviles / feature
Circle / Jayisha Patel / short
Cladach / Margaret Salmon / feature
Coucouleurs / Oana Lacroix / short
Crystal Swan / Darya Zhuk / feature
Daughter of Mine / Laura Bispuri / feature
The Day I Lost My Shadow / Soudade Kaadan / feature
The Dead and the Others / Joao Salaviza, Renee Nada Messora / feature
De Natura / Lucile Hadzihalilovic / short
Dead Pigs / Cathy Yan / feature
Delia Derbyshire: The Myths and Legendary Tapes / Caroline Catz / short
Destroyer / Karyn Kusama / feature
Dodgy Dave / Charlotte Regan / short
Dreamaway / Maouan Omara, Johanna Domke / feature
Eat the Dust Trilogy: Footnote; Crime Scene; Eat the Dust / Ruth Novaczek / short
The Elephant Queen / Victoria Stone, Mark Deeble / feature
Evidentiary Bodies / Barbara Hammer / short
Fake News Fairytale / Kate Stonehill / short
A Female Body / Thais Fernandes / short
The Field / Sandhya Suri / short
The Fight / Jessica Hynes / feature
Fitting / Emily Avila / short
Five Men and a Caravaggio / Xiaolu Guo / feature
Florianópolis Dream / Ana Katz / feature
Fly / Nadira Amrani / short
Freedom Fields / Naziha Arebi / feature
Fruits of Clouds / Martina Netíková / short
Girl / Lowri Roberts / short
Girls of the Sun / Eva Husson / feature
Good Intentions / Anna Mantzaris / short
Gordon and Paddy / Linda Hambäck / feature
Hair Wolf / Mariama Diallo / short
Happy as Lazzaro / Alice Rohrwacher / feature
Happy Ending / EunJu Choi / short
Holiday / Isabella Eklöf / feature
Holy Tour / Valery Rosier, Meryl Fortunat-Rossi / feature
House of My Fathers / Suba Sivakumaran / feature
House of Women / Michelle Williams Gamaker  / short
How to Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom / Shakti Bhagchandani / short
An Impossible Love / Catherine Corsini / feature
The Invaders / Mateo Márquez, Claudia Murdoch, Carrie Radigan, Alastair Murdoch / short
I Used to Be Normal: A Boyband Fangirl Story / Jessica Leski / feature
I Want to Live in the Zoo / Evgenia Golubeva / short
Inanimate / Lucia Bulgheroni / short
It’s Easier to Raise Cattle / Amanda Nell Eu / short
Jerk / Raine Allen-Miller / short
Jinn / Nijla Mu’min / feature
Journey to a Mother’s Room / Celia Rico Clavellino / feature
Joy / Sudabeh Mortezai  / feature
Juck / Olivia Kastebring, Julia Gumpert, Ulrika Bandeira / short
The Kindergarten Teacher / Sara Colangelo / feature
Kleptomami / Pola Beck / short
Ladyworld / Amanda Kramer / feature
Little Forest / Yim Soon-rye / feature
Lola, 15 / Jennifer Reeder / short
The Lost Films of Bloody Nora / Sophia Di Martino / short
Madeline’s Madeline / Josephine Decker / feature
Mahogany Too / Akosua Adoma Owusu / short
Make Me Up / Rachel Maclean / feature
Maki’la / Machérie Ekwa Bahango / feature
Manto / Nandita Das / feature
Mari / Georgia Parris / feature
Maria Lassnig: New York Films 1970–1980  / Maria Lassnig / short
Maya / Mia Hansen-Løve / feature
Mayfair / Sara Blecher / feature
Miriam Lies / Natalia Cabral, Oriol Estrada / feature
Mr. Soul! / Melissa Haizlip, Samuel D. Pollard / feature
Namdev Bhau in Search of Silence / Dar Gai / feature
Namibia Today / Laura Horelli / short
Nancy / Christina Choe / feature
Nevada / Emily Ann Hoffman / short
Night Out / Amelia Hashemi / short
No Ifs or Buts / Sarah Lewis / feature
Nosebleed / Luna Carmoon / short
Of Love & Law / Hikaru Toda / feature
Oh God / Betina Bozek / short
Olhe Bem as Montanhas / Ana Vaz / short
Only You / Harry Wootliff / feature
Optimism / Deborah Stratman / short
Ordinary Time / Susana Nobre / feature
Out of Blue / Carol Morley / feature
Penguin / Julia Ocker / short
People of the Wasteland / Heba Khaled / short
Piggy / Carlota Pereda / short
Promised Lands / Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa / short
The Queen of Fear / Valeria Bertuccelli, Fabiana Tiscornia / feature
Rafiki / Wanuri Kahiu / feature
Rajma Chawal / Leena Yadav / feature
Rebirth Is Necessary / Jenn Nkiru / short
Salam / Claire Fowler / short
Second Time Around / Dora Garcia / feature
Sex Ed / Alice Seabright / short
Shock Waves — Diary of My Mind / Ursula Meier / feature
Skip Day / Patrick Bresnan, Ivete Lucas / short
Slumberparty 2018 / Cait McKinney and Hazel Meyer / short
Solar Walk / Reka Bucsi / short
Special Works School / Bambitchell (Sharlene Bamboat and Alexis Mitchell) / short
The Startled Faction / Catherine Sullivan / short
Still Water Runs Deep / Abbesi Akhamie  / short
Sugar Cane Alley / Euzhan Palcy / feature
The Sun Quartet / Colectivo Los Ingravidos / short
Tåke / Inger Lise Hansen / short
That Time of Year / Paprika Steen / feature
Theatre of War / Lola Arias / feature
Third Sorrow / Myriam Raja / short
Time Away / Maxine Peake / short
Too Late to Die Young / Dominga Sotomayor / feature
Touch Me Not / Adina Pintilie / feature
Tween / Raven Johnson / short
Twenty-two Hours / Bouchra Khalili / feature
Twin Flower / Laura Luchetti / feature
Two Plains & a Fancy / Lev Kalman and Whitney Horn  / feature
United Skates / Dyana Winkler, Tina Brown / feature
Unsettling / Iris Zaki / feature
Veslemøy’s Song / Sofia Bohdanowicz / short
Volte / Monika Kotecka, Karolina Poryzala / short
Vox Lipoma / Jane Magnusson, Liv Stromquist / short
Waiting / Amberley Jo Aumua / short
We Are the Road / Jenna Collins / short
Yours in Sisterhood / Irene Lusztig / feature

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