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London film festival 2015 will be ‘year of strong women’

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Written By: Hannah Ellis-Petersen 1/9/15

BFI chief says festival will have strong focus on films made by and starring women in hope it can ‘kickstart change’

The organisers of the BFI London film festival have said 2015’s event will be “the year of the strong women” in a bid to redress the gender imbalance in the film industry.

The BFI’s chief executive, Amanda Nevill, said this year’s festival would have a strong focus on films made by and starring a range of women in hope that it could be “a real moment to kickstart change”. Only 45 of the 238 films in the festival line-up are helmed by women, however.

The festival will host the European premieres of Suffragette, starring Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter and Meryl Streep; a film adaptation of Alan Bennett’s The Lady in the Van; an adaptation of Colm Tóibín’s novel Brooklyn, starring Saoirse Ronan; and the UK premiere of Cannes hit Carol, with Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara in the lead roles.

Referencing recent comments from women including Emma Thompson, Robin Wright and Romola Garai about sexism and gender inequality in the film industry, Nevill said that the continued lack of women in the creative industrieswas alarming.

“The proportion of women writers and directors remains alarmingly low, while the number of films with female protagonists is in decline,” she said. “So something isn’t working here. It’s not a male problem or a female problem, it is something we need to tackle together. We need to invent new and intelligent ways of working for the whole workforce.”

Nevill said that Suffragette, which will open the festival in its 59th year, served as an “uncomfortable reminder that even after a hundred years of suffrage, humankind has made rather pathetic progress in ensuring that the whole of the population, not just half of it, is able to contribute meaningfully to society”.

She added: “We have a renewed sense of impatience and it is an impatience I share. I too started in the 80s and I’m completely astonished that I’m standing here and seeing a world that hasn’t moved on at all.”

Nevill said that addressing the imbalance in diversity was a pivotal factor in maintaining the quality of British film. “UK film is brilliant, both creatively and technically, but we are deluding ourselves that it will remain so without us actively seeking talented people from every corner of the UK,” she said.

Other films featuring in the LFF lineup include the European premiere of the documentary He Named Me Malala, Stephen Frears’ Lance Armstrong biopic The Program, and the adaptation of JG Ballad’s High Rise, starring Tom Hiddleston.

Despiteseveral debuts for big European films, however, this year’s LFF will see only 16 world premieres. Suffragette, which will open the festival, receives its world premiere at Toronto film festival, while Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs, which will close the event, will screen first at New York Film Festival.

• The London film festival runs from 7 to 18 October 2015.

Source: The Guardian

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