Running until 25 November and hosted at cinemas across London, Underwire is the UK’s only film festival exclusively celebrating female filmmaking talent. The festival was founded in 2010 by screenwriter Gabriella Apicella and producer Gemma Mitchell, after they felt that there was not enough recognition for women in the film industry. They created the festival with the goal of addressing gender imbalance in film, and with hopes of transforming the industry. Underwire works not only to applaud filmmaking talent, but also recognises important facets of the industry in ten skill-based categories, including sound design, composing, and screenwriting.
Apicella and Mitchell believe that a more gender balanced film industry will benefit everyone, and over the recent years, current Festival Director, Anna Bogutskaya has taken the festival to popular theatres including Curzon Cinemas, the Barbican Centre, and BFI Southbank. This year, the festival highlights over 150 short films, produced by women in key creative positions. Bogutskaya told Something Curated: “It’s important to spotlight female creativity in general, at any time, everywhere. Underwire has been doing it for years now, and it’s particularly important to highlight the work that happens behind the scenes, and how many amazing women there are working across the crafts in film.”
This year’s programme platforms diverse genres of film, ranging from documentaries and comedies to animation. Among the projects we are excited about is Victoria Sin, a short film by Amrou Al-Kadhi, which documents a drag queen named Victoria. It examines how her drag consistently challenges, provokes, and rejuvenates London’s queer spaces, giving attention and agency to the daily responsibilities and expectations of femininity. Kirsty Osmon’s Aeroplanes shows the life of a young woman who lost her mother in a plane crash, as she decides to compulsively steal an unaccompanied child to fill the void left by her deceased mother. This film shows both the complications and joys of motherhood, as well as the pain and hardship of enduring loss.
“The programming process is very long and rigorous,” Bogutskaya tells us, “The core programme is built from submissions we receive, and it’s really interesting to see recurring themes that emerge every year, or different ones. This year there was an incredible array of films that focused or explored the female body, and that inspired the programme ‘The Body Beautiful’. We don’t go in looking for themes or social issues in particular, we just want to show the best films.”
‘The Body Beautiful’ section of the programme will examine the expectations of the female body in depth, and explore women’s relationship to their bodies and the societal pressure that is placed on them. Among these short films is a piece by Helen Plumb entitled, A Prickly Subject, which is the poetic account of a woman who is grappling with the decision of whether or not she should embrace her body hair in public. It deals with the complexity of femininity, and the struggles that many women face over the course of their lifetime. Another compelling film in this programme is The Hungry Games written by Jessica Ellerby, which is a satirical social observation comedy focusing around the body conforming pressures that society puts on young women today.
With an aim, “for audiences and filmmakers alike to have a great experience to enjoy the films in the festival and connect with each other. And, more widely, to platform amazing filmmakers who are doing extraordinary work – and just happen to be women,” as Bogutskaya tells us, Underwire Film Festival is a timely and useful opportunity to discover an abundance of new and diverse filmmaking talents presented across London.
Underwire Film Festival is running until 25 November 2018 – see the full programme here.
Words by Jane Herz | Feature image: Still from NOSEBLEED (via Underwire Film Festival)