BFI partners with Diversity in Cannes to celebrate Black women filmmakers during the Cannes Film Festival

A delegation of UK filmmakers will be attending the festival to focus on growing international networks and building new creative and financial partnerships.

Yvonne Ibazebo, Nadine Marsh-Edwards, Kelley Robins Hicks and Shantelle Rochester

We’re partnering with Diversity in Cannes to present Celebrating Black Women in International Film, a curated programme of events and networking opportunities to build meaningful creative and financial partnerships. As part of the programme, a delegation of four UK Black female filmmakers, who are actively seeking partners for current projects, will go to the Cannes Film Festival to connect with their international peers.

With only one Black female director to have ever qualified for competition in Cannes until this year, the BFI with Diversity in Cannes is creating space for Black women filmmakers to challenge narratives and barriers that see them persistently underrepresented in the industry. The cohort of UK filmmakers travelling to the festival as part of the programme are Yvonne Ibazebo, Nadine Marsh-Edwards, Kelley Robins Hicks and Shantelle Rochester. 

With additional support from the British Blacklist and Times Up UK, the programme includes two days of events, which will see Black filmmakers talk through their experiences, achievements and perspectives. Events will explore what it is to be a filmmaker from a historically marginalised background, to interrogate the importance and value of authentic authorship and how our experiences bring richness to stories.

After an overwhelmingly positive response to a very informal coming together of Black female talent at last year’s festival, it became clear how rare opportunities to celebrate female filmmakers of colour are. It has been a pleasure to shape this programme with our partner Diversity in Cannes, supported by the British Blacklist and Times Up UK; organisations who have been championing historically marginalised communities for so many years. We hope the events, coupled with supporting a group of UK filmmakers to travel to Cannes, offers a chance for international Black female filmmakers to develop creative pathways that serve their own voice and artistic practices, while operating in a structures that often presents them with barriers.Melanie Hoyes, head of inclusion at the BFI
Black women directors have been grossly underrepresented and have gone unrecognised at the Cannes Film Festival since inception. In 76 years, there's been only two in competition, Mati Diop in 2019 and Ramata-Toulaye Sy this year. While I celebrate and uplift Sy, the Cannes Film Festival still has work to do. However, I have zero interest in fighting the patriarchy, as you know what they say about old dogs and new tricks. Instead, I will use the Diversity in Cannes platform to honour global black women in film at the Cannes Film Festival, indefinitely, and I’m excited to partner with Melanie Hoyes and the BFI to amplify their voices.Yolonda Brinkley, founder of Diversity in Cannes

Programme of events

Friday 19 May

12.00 to 2.00 – Black Women’s Lunch supported by The British Blacklist

16.00 to 17.00 – Demystifying Film Finance panel at the UK Pavillion 

UK and international funds unpack and demystify the business of securing and accessing film finance. 

Moderator: Ama Ampadu, senior production & development executive, BFI.  

Panellists: Samuel Ampah, senior media accountant, Alliotts;  Tamara Mariam Dawit, creative producer/strategist, Gobez Media; Leanne Saunders, head of development and production, New Zealand Film Commission; Patrick Schaff, head of strategic development/communications, Hessen Film Fund, Germany; and Diana C Zollicoffer, producer.

17.00 to 19.00 – Networking reception with speeches from Dame Heather Rabbatts, Times Up UK, and Yolonda Brinkley, Diversity in Cannes

Saturday 20 May

10.00 to 11.00 – “Cannes you see us?” – Creating Space and Celebrating Black Women in International Film at the Marché du Film

With only one Black woman to have ever qualified for competition at Cannes until recently, the BFI and Diversity in Cannes partner to creating space to challenge narratives that remain prevalent in the industry by inviting pioneering Black women filmmakers, existing on a global stage to talk through their experiences, achievements and perspectives.

In this special event that celebrates what it is to be a filmmaker from an historically marginalised background, we delve deeper into authentic authorship, exploration of self, and how our experiences bring richness to our stories. 

This is not a diversity panel, but rather a spotlight on and a celebration of filmmakers from underrepresented backgrounds. A chance for them to speak to the industry, as it exists now, on developing creative pathways that serve their own voice and artistic practices whilst existing within these structures.

Moderator: Yolonda Brinkley, Diversity in Cannes

Speakers: Johanna Makabi, Zoey Martinson, Dr Inya Lawal (tbc), Shantelle Rochester, Kelley Robins Hicks

Cohort of UK Black women filmmakers

Yvonne Ibazebo

Born in Scotland, raised in Nigeria and now living in the UK, Yvonne has always been passionate about stories – in whatever form. As a freelance line producer, Yvonne has worked on a wide variety of film and TV projects with an array of talented directors and actors.

These run from artist/filmmaker John Maybury’s debut feature, Love Is the Devil, which starred Daniel Craig and went on to be nominated for the Un Certain Regard award at Cannes and to win Best British Feature at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, to Top Boy, nominated for a Best Mini-Series BAFTA and winner of the Royal Television Society’s Best Drama award. On Top Boy, Yvonne collaborated with award-winning directors Yann Demange, Reinaldo Marcus Green, Nia DaCosta and Aneil Karia, with Drake joining the series as executive producer.

Other projects include Harmony Korine’s Mr Lonely, starring Samantha Morton and Werner Herzog (nominee Un Certain Regard at Cannes), Ngozi Onwurah’s Shoot the Messenger starring David Oyelowo and Daniel Kaluuya (nominee Best Narrative Feature at Tribeca). And in television, Marc Munden’s National Treasure starring Robbie Coltrane, Andrea Riseborough and Julie Walters, which won Best Mini Series at BAFTA and the Royal Television Society. Yvonne also produced Oscar-winner John Ridley’s TV drama series, Guerrilla, which stars Idris Elba.

Through her company, Turnover Films, Yvonne is developing a variety of film and TV projects with several broadcasters. Completed projects include Two Single Beds, a short film written and starring Daniel Kaluuya for Film4; A Story of Bones, best documentary feature nominee at Tribeca Film Festival, and Rye Lane, a romantic comedy directed by Raine Allen-Miller and funded by BBC Film and BFI, which premiered at Sundance and was released to critical acclaim by Searchlight.

Nadine Marsh-Edwards

Nadine Marsh-Edwards is a BAFTA and RTS award-winning black female film and television producer and co-founder of Greenacre Films, a diverse and female-led independent production company. She has had a long-standing and recognised commitment to making change in the film and TV industry, both in front of and behind the camera by providing primetime space for diverse voices to be heard and skills to be utilised. She is a recent recipient of the WFTV Contribution to the Medium Award.

Her feature film credits include Been So Long bought by Netflix (funded by BFI/Film4) starring Michaela Coel. BAFTA nominated Bhaji on the Beach directed by Gurinder Chadha, Isaac Julien’s Looking for Langston Teddy Award Berlin and Young Soul Rebels, winner of the Semaine de la Critique du Festival Cannes and a Teddy Award. She has also produced numerous award-winning short films.

She has just exec produced Riches, a six-part ground-breaking drama series for ITV/Amazon written by Abby Ajayi. Her other recent television credits include Unsaid Stories for ITV, Akala’s Odyssey and The Ruins of Empire for the BBC. She also produced the Emmy nominated, BAFTA and RTS winning Joe All Alone for CBBC.

Prior to Greenacre, she was the development executive on the award winning and BAFTA nominated An Englishman in New York for ITV and an Eeecutive at BBC Scotland for several years.

Kelley Robins Hicks

Kelley Robins Hicks is a filmmaker born in Houston, Texas and based in London. After an award-winning college swimming career, she worked as an actor with work featured on Californication, Castle and The Avengers before moving to the producing side of the industry.

She is a writer and executive producer of the Peabody award-winning HBO series Random Acts of Flyness. In 2022, Kelley celebrated the international theatrical release of the Independent Spirit Award nominated Queen of Glory. Her film producing work has been featured at the London, Tribeca, Toronto and Sundance film festivals.

Shantelle Rochester

Shantelle Rochester is a producer, showrunner and actor with 15 years’ experience in the industry. In 2017, she set up her own production company, Ida Rose, to produce film and television content as well as support projects, events and training created by diverse teams for diverse audiences. Ida Rose is committed to helping shape the future by working with underrepresented creatives all over the world, especially writers, directors, producers and actresses.

Shantelle’s first credit as producer (and actor) was Two Graves (2018), which was bought by Netflix, but she has worked on numerous other films as an associate and line producer. In 2020, under Covid-19 protocol, she produced The Black British Theatre Awards for Sky Arts, alongside Kwame Kwei-Armah.

Since then, she has been working on a diverse slate of films, series, documentaries and digital projects at Ida Rose, including her first production for 2022, Stolen, which is a South African-UK co-production under the official South African and UK trade mission. This thriller is also one of three scripted projects that have been picked up by a US distributor. 

Big Media, the other two being drama series The Underground and true story series Doors.

BFI Player logo

All-you-can-watch access to 100s of films

A free trial, then just £4.99/month or £49/year.

Get free trial