Thursday, February 18, 2010

Preview - The Birds Eye View Film Festival 2010

After compiling my best of the year list for 2009, I was struck by an unusual occurrence. Out of the twenty films that I selected as the year's finest, five and a half of them (taking into consideration Sugar's co-director) had been made by women, meaning over a quarter of the year's best pictures were the product of female directorial vision. In a traditionally patriarchal industry, where female filmmakers are a distinct minority, this is no small feat, and with Kathryn Bigelow looking set to collect a well-deserved Oscar next month, it seems that female directors are finally pushing out of cinema's ghetto and into the mainstream. All of which means the Birds Eye View Film Festival feels more relevant than ever. This annual event, which celebrates female filmmakers from every corner of the globe, is now in its sixth year, and every passing year seems to bring a more eclectic and exciting programme.

I have already seen a couple of the features that are appearing in this year's festival, and while I was disappointed in Wanuri Kahiu's well-meaning drama From A Whisper, I was stunned by Jessica Hausner's bold and haunting Lourdes, and moved by Cherien Dabis' witty immigrant drama Amreeka. During the course of the festival, I am particularly looking forward to Map of the Sounds of Tokyo, the new film by Isabel Coixet, and Mia Hansen-Løve's The Father of My Children, while Drew Barrymore makes her directorial debut with Whip It, the festival's closing night film. These are just a few of the festival's intriguing offerings, although I'm certain I'll end up stumbling across an unexpected gem in one of the less high-profile features – maybe the Romanian Mall Girls, or Columbia's Entre Nos, will fit that bill.

But highlighting new features is only half of what the Birds Eye View Film Festival has to offer. Short films get their chance to shine in four separate programmes, and there are special strands dedicated to fashion and music, as well as a series of training courses. In partnership with the British Film Institute, the festival is staging a superb season called Blonde Crazy, celebrating the sexy, comical and violent history of fair-haired femmes on screen. The season runs the gamut from Jean Harlow to Sharon Stone via Marilyn Monroe, and a few of my personal favourites are included (including Ernst Lubitsch's glorious To Be Or Not To Be), as well as silent screenings of The Patsy, The Adventures of Prince Ahmed and Chicago, all of which feature specially-commissioned live scores. Perhaps the festival's biggest coup, however, is the appearance of Susanne Bier, one of European cinema's foremost filmmakers regardless of gender. Her work will be celebrated in a retrospective, and the director herself will be discussing her career in what is bound to be a fascinating masterclass.

The Birds Eye View Film Festival runs from March 4th – 12th at the ICA and the NFT.