Girls on film

A year-long celebration of women in cinema seeks to inspire a new generation of female film makers

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Opinions vary as to how effective they’ve been in bringing about significant change, but there’s no doubt that high-profile movements like #MeToo, Time’s Up and calls to address the gender pay gap have shone a spotlight on the obstacles, misogyny and discrimination that women working in the film industry continue to face, over 120 years since the birth of cinema.

“Historically the film industry has been dominated by men and it still is,” says Rachel Hayward, film programme manager at Manchester art, theatre and film venue Home. “In terms of social awareness, #MeToo has been hugely transformative, but whether things are actually changing I’m not so sure. It’s amazing that people have had the courage to speak out and are putting not just their jobs on the line but are really opening up out of anger and distress. But there now needs to be action taken and that’s what we’re not necessarily seeing. There’s so many things that are not equal in the industry that so much has to change and we’re nowhere near there yet. This is one hell of a journey.”

Although not directly inspired by #MeToo and Time’s Up, Home’s new year-long Celebrating Women in Global Cinema programme looks to address issues of diversity and inclusion by championing female filmmakers from across the world and a variety of cultural, social and political perspectives. Scheduled to run throughout 2019 and into next year, it is the longest film season Home (and Cornerhouse before it) has ever hosted.

“That reflects the seriousness of our commitment. A month or six month-long programme was not going to cut it for this one,” explains Hayward, who co-curated the season alongside University of Salford’s Andy Willis.

Highlights include retrospectives on German director Margarethe von Trotta, pioneering Hong Kong filmmaker Angie Chen, Indian actor-director Nandita Das and Euzhan Palcy, who became the first black woman to direct a Hollywood studio picture with A Dry White Season picture in 1989. There will also be an in-depth look at women’s activism in cinema, while critic Anna Smith will be bringing her all-female review show Girls On Film to the venue for a series of live podcasts.

Seasonal Home favourites like Not Just Bollywood, Pride and its long-running Viva Spanish and Latin America festival will additionally have a strong female element as part of a wide-ranging and evolving programme, a lot of which is still to be revealed.

“One of the aims is just to have a broader awareness within audiences of female talent,” says Hayward. “There’s some amazing female filmmakers out there that most people are just not aware of and without sounding too grand about it, this is about discovering them and rewriting the history of cinema.”

Another goal is to inspire the next generation of female filmmakers with six programming slots across the year set aside for young creatives to get involved. Participants can range from aspiring curators to wannabe directors and producers, says Hayward, with the first informal Women in Film and Broadcast Meet-up taking place on 24 January.

“As a curator it’s a little bit scary letting the reins go, but for a project like this it’s hugely important that there’s multiple voices represented,” she explains. “Bringing the audience and other curators in is crucial to the success of the season. I want people to question things, bring in their own ideas. I wish this was my quote: ‘You’ve got to see her to be her.’ And if you’ve got amazing female talent being foregrounded and showcased that’s only going to inspire women to do amazing things. We want to help make that happen.”

Celebrating Women in Global Cinema is at Home, Manchester throughout 2019 

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