This International Women’s Day, we celebrate the remarkable projects created by women working in film. From screenwriting, directing and acting to programming, editing and artists’ film, we highlight 10 individuals who have made their mark on the industry in recent years, despite the ongoing imbalance between men and women both onscreen and behind the scenes. According to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, 85% of films had no female directors, 80% had no female writers, 33% had no female producers, 78% had no female editors and 92% had no female cinematographers in 2014. This is but a small selection of the innovative women who have been changing the face of film.
1. Clio Barnard
British documentary and feature film director Clio Barnard (b.1965) won widespread acclaim for her debut The Arbor (2010), for which she was awarded Best New Documentary Filmmaker at Tribeca Film Festival New York and Best Newcomer at London Film Festival, and nominated for BAFTA’s Outstanding Debut Award in 2011. Following this, her feature film The Selfish Giant (2013) represented the UK in the Directors Fortnight line-up at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, and was also nominated for the 2013 Lux Prize and BAFTA’s Outstanding British Film in 2014. The film, which is inspired by the Oscar Wilde story of the same name, went on to win Best Film at the 24th Stockholm International Film Festival. Her next project, Dark River, is set to be released later this year.
2. Ava DuVernay
The first African-American woman to win Best Director at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival for her film Middle of Nowhere, Ava DuVernay (b. 1972) is a director, screenwriter, marketer and distributor working predominantly in feature films. Her work in Selma (2014) made her the first black female director to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award, while the film was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. DuVernay’s recent film 13th (2016) brought her further acclaim as an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature nominee this year. A Wrinkle in Time will be her next film – a project that sees her become the first black woman to direct a live-action film with a budget exceeding $100 million.
3. Andrea Arnold
Multi-award nominee English filmmaker and former actress Andrea Arnold OBE is best known for her Oscar-winning short film Wasp (2003). Born in 1961, she made the transition from acting to screenwriting and directing after studying at the AFI Conservatory in Los Angeles and the PAL Labs in Kent. She moved onto feature films with Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize winners Red Road (2006) and Fish Tank (2009), and an adaptation of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (2011). Her film American Honey (2016) competed for Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and won Arnold her third Jury Prize. She has also directed several episodes of the Emmy-winning series Transparent.
4. Abi Morgan
Abi Morgan is a British screenwriter and playwright, and has worked on Sex Traffic and The Hour, as well as popular films such as Brick Lane, The Iron Lady, Shame and Suffragette. Born in Cardiff, 1968, Morgan was commissioned to write the single drama Sex Traffic for Channel 4 in 2004, which won the 2005 BAFTA for Best Drama Serial. She has since written a number of single dramas for television including White Girl, part of White (2008) and Royal Wedding (2010), as well as a two-part television adaptation of Sebastian Faulks’s Birdsong. Her work on The Iron Lady earned her a BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay nomination, while her work on Shame earned her a BAFTA Award for Outstanding British Film nomination.
5. Alice Lowe
Born in 1977, Alice Lowe is known for her roles in the Garth Marenghi series and as the lead and co-writer of the 2012 film Sightseers. The English actress and writer began her career devising and performing in surreal experimental theatre shows, and she was part of the Perrier Award nominated cast in Garth Marenghi’s Fright Knight alongside fellow Cambridge graduates Richard Ayoade and Matt Holness. She has recently starred in Locke (2013) and in Benjamin Bee’s ASFF winning comedy short Girl Power (2014). Her most recent work Prevenge (2016) featured a pregnant Lowe as homicidal mother-to-be Ruth.
6. Lorna Simpson
The African-American photographer and multimedia artist made her name in the 1980s and 1990s with artworks such as Guarded Conditions and Square Deal. A leading of her generation, Simpson’s works have been included in numerous exhibitions both nationally and internationally. Born in 1960 and currently living in New York, she first came to prominence in the 1980s for her large-scale works that combined photography and text, and defied traditional conceptions of sex, identity, race, culture, history, and memory. Much of her practice spans across the disciplines of film, video and photography. In 2014, BALTIC, Gateshead, staged the artist’s first European retrospective, which featured several video installations, and the same year, she was also shortlisted for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize.
7. Celia Haining
Film and television editor Celia Haining started assisting in the cutting rooms of award-winning films like The Full Monty, Twelve Monkeys and Road To Perdition. She broke into the feature film industry as an editor for Shane Meadows’ Dead Man’s Shoes, and since then, she has worked on projects such as Charlie Stratton’s In Secret starring Oscar Isaac. Her experience in television ranges from feature documentaries and television dramas like Misfits for Channel Four, Hit And Miss for Sky Atlantic, WWI epic The Passing Bells for BBC1, The Five created by Harlan Coben for Sky One, The Crown for Netflix and the multi-award winning Peaky Blinders.
8. Gurinder Chadha
Much of Gurinder Chadha’s (b.1960) directorial work showcases the trials of Indian women living in the UK and how they must reconcile their converging traditional and modern cultures. An English filmmaker of Punjabi Sikh Kenyan Asian origin, many of her films address the social and emotional issues faced by immigrants caught between two worlds. Her best known films include Bhaji on the Beach (1993), Bend It Like Beckham (2002), Bride and Prejudice (2004), Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging (2008), and It’s a Wonderful Afterlife (2010). Her latest piece, the partition drama Viceroy’s House (2017), is currently in cinemas nationwide.
9. Clare Stewart
BFI Head of Festivals and BFI London Film Festival Director since 2011, Claire Stewart has a diverse 20-year career in programming behind her. Previous leadership roles include Festival Director, Sydney Film Festival (2006- 2011) and the inaugural Head of Film Programs at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne (2002-2006). She has also worked for the Australian Film Institute (1996-2001) as Exhibition Manager, and programmer and Committee Member of the Melbourne Cinémathèque (1995-2002). Stewart was the inaugural holder of BFI Head of Exhibition, which brings together all of the organisation’s film exhibition activity across BFI Southbank, BFI festivals and BFI Imax.
10. Sophia Al Maria
Shortlisted for the Jarman Award, Sophia Al Maria (b.1983) is an artist, writer and filmmaker. She studied comparative literature at the American University in Cairo, and aural and visual cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London, and for the last few years, she has been carrying out research around the concept of Gulf Futurism. Her primary interests are around the isolation of individuals via technology and reactionary Islam. Al Maria’s work has recently been exhibited in institutional shows including Villa Empain, Boghossian Foundation, Brussels, (2016); HOME, Manchester (2016); The Brunei Gallery, London (2016); LUMA Westbau, Zurich; the 2015 Triennial: Surround Audience, New Museum, New York; and the Whitney Museum, New York.
International Women’s Day, 8 March. www.internationalwomensday.com.
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1. Andrea Arnold, American Honey.
2. Alice Lowe, Sightseers.
3. Clio Barnard, The Selfish Giant.
4. Ava DuVernay, Selma.