Underwire: Addressing Gender

Founded in 2010, Underwire is the only festival in the UK dedicated to celebrating female filmmaking. Originated by Gabriella Apicella and Gemma Mitchell to address gender imbalance in film, this year’s eighth edition is once again an insightful and engaging selection of shorts, feature films and events, taking place at venues across London from the BFI Southbank to the Barbican.

Highlights in the feature strand include Sofia Olins’ Lost In Vagueness, a documentary ten years in the making. Lifting the lid on the volatile friendship between Roy Gurvitz and Glastonbury Festival founder Michael Eavis, it traces the formation of the Gurvitz-inspired Lost Vagueness, the iconic night-time jamboree inside Glasto that blended burlesque, cabaret, ballroom dancing and more besides. The screening includes a Q&A with Olins, a performance and – aptly enough – an after-party.

Another must-see is a twentieth anniversary 35mm screening of Sally Potter’s black-and-white beauty The Tango Lesson. Featuring an introduction by film critic and academic Sophie Mayer, in the year when Potter’s The Party has been gaining great notices, it’s an ideal time to re-evaluate her 1997 film, in which she and Pablo Verón starred in this semi-autobiographical tale about that most sensational of dances, the Argentinean Tango.

The festival will also be hosting a feminist film quiz (in partnership with magazine Little White Lies), although the main events are surely the competitive short film programmes. Some 50-70 shorts are in the selection, with awards spanning ten skill-based categories: Directing, Producing, Screenwriting, Editing, Cinematography, Sound Design, Composing, Production Design and Animation. In the past, the festival has awarded training and mentoring opportunities to over 50 filmmakers.

This year, the programme strands include Men By Women, a series of shorts that reverse the male gaze; Science Fiction Double Feature, a stirring collection of futuristic films; Period Pieces, revisionist historical shorts where women take centre stage; and Walking Home Alone At Night, a female slant on the classic horror movie. Fans of short filmmaker Kate Herron can also catch a series of her shorts (as well as a Q&A with Herron) in the intriguingly titled anthology Tentacles Are Included.

Underwire Festival takes place from 22 November to 26 November. For more details, visit: www.underwirefestival.com

James Mottram

1. Still from Sally Potter’s The Party.