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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Women in Film at the 2015 BFI London Film Festival

There has been a significant amount of discussion around gender inequality in films. The topics over the past few years include; lack of ‘good’ roles for women, not enough roles for women after a certain age, not enough female directors and of course lesser pay for equal work in the film industry. To slightly redress the balance the British Film Industry London Film Festival team, Amanda Nevill (Chief Executive of the BFI) and Clare Stewart (Festival Director, BFI London Film Festival), championed the cause when they put together a program that displays women in film, a little more than usual. The display included not only fabulous actresses but with over 50 of the films (still only 20%) directed by women, not to mention how many were produced or written by women, there was a plethora of choice.

Kicking things off was Suffragette which was not only made by women (director, producers and screen writer) it had an outstanding predominately female cast; Carey Morgan, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne-Marie Duff and Meryl Streep. And of course it was a fitting theme and a great way to focus attention on women’s fight for equality.

Top performances by ladies of all ages included:

Carey Morgan in Suffragette
Helen Mirren in Trumbo
Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn
Maggie Smith in The Lady in the Van
Malala Yousafzai in He Named Me Malala
Brie Larson in Room
Laura Carmichael Burn Burn Burn
Elisabeth Moss Queen of Earth
Lily Tomlin Grandma
Cate Blanchett Truth and Carol
Rooney Mara Carol

Even though the London film festival team declared 2015 the year of the strong woman, the women in question were a little more circumspect.

Cate Blanchett gave not one but two great performances this year in the films Carol and Truth. So what did she think of the tag “strong woman?”

“What does that mean?” questioned Blanchett. “I think it’s a short-hand, like saying that women are ‘luminous’. I don’t know what it means! It’s probably just a catch-all, but what’s it a catch-all for?”

Rooney Mara, co-star in Carol also chimed in with “Just because we have fully realized parts in the movie, it’s somehow strong?” 

Cate went further to say, “Every time there are interesting, complex roles played by actresses on screen, someone says, ‘Do you think this is a breakthrough?’ and ‘Does this mean that there’s going to be more?’ We seem to every year find ourselves in the same conversation, that somehow it’s remarkable. I think there’s a swathe of great roles for women, and certainly a swathe of wonderful female performers. I think it’s just time to get on with it, really”.

Burn Burn Burn director, Chanya Button when asked about what a strong part the women played in her first film she explained, “There isn’t a feminist agenda. We wanted to show fully fleshed out nuanced female characters, to represent the truth of what we see. I’ve been delighted by the number of people who have said they can really relate to it.”

For my part it was a delight to watch women on the screen this year. Their characters were crazy, compelling, obnoxious, funny, heartbreaking and with great depth. Strong, yes, but it is time to stop labeling them as strong, rather as good or even great, in leading roles, in directing and in producing. The time really is now. The stories in films reflect life, which isn’t all about men.

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