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Last night I attended a UK screening of Miss Representation Jennifer Siebel Newsom‘s documentary that looks at how the US media portrays women and young girls. This event was hosted by Women in Film and TV and Amnesty International UK.

Just watch the trailer and you’ll get a taste of the heart-lurching-lump-in-your-throat feeling that this film evokes. The opening still displays a quote from Alice Walker “The most common way that people give up their power is by thinking that they don’t have any”. This is followed by a montage of sexualised, violent and demeaning images of women cut between quotes from contributors about the media’s treatment and representation of women and the impact on society. From the start, you know that this is a campaigning film, designed to provoke its audience into action.

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Last Thursday (17th March) was the closing night of the Birds Eye View Film Festival. Birds Eye View is the only film festival in the UK that celebrates and supports women filmmakers. The festival was founded by Rachel Millward and Pinny Grylls in 2002 in response to the low figures of female director’s in the UK. Back then it was 6%, in 2009 the number was 17.2%. Although that’s a notable rise, the numbers of female filmmakers are in a constant state of flux. This can be seen from the number of female screenwriters, in 2008 the number of UK films written by women was 17.3% and in 2009 16.5%. There has not yet been a consistent increase in the number of female filmmakers and given recent fallout of women across the creative media industry the predictions are that those figures will once again fall.

The source for all these percentages is the UK Film Council’s statistical yearbook. Now that the UKFC has been cut, it is still not clear which UK organisation will take on gathering vital statistical information about the state of the UK Film Industry.

It feels like we are entering a void of uncertainty when it comes to the state of the UK Film industry. The effects of the government’s decision to cut the UKFC on the British Film Industry has already been written about (click here for the immediate reaction of Andrew Pulver in the Guardian). What hasn’t come through clearly is all the other funding that the UKFC covered – towards diversity, film festivals, new talent; funding that supported organisations like Birds Eye View. What will happen to this vision of equality and diversity if no other organisation is taking it on? And what will be the effects on the output of British films if there is no body set up to ensure that equal opportunites remain on the agenda? If there is no funding available for independent productions, support for young filmmakers, women, people from BME then will UK output be entirely of a branded commercial variety? Will we get more films made by Tescos?

For more information about the Birds Eye View Film Festival please click here.

The US based Geena Davis Institute on Gender has just released research on how women and girls are portrayed in film. It has some depressing stats on women working in production in the US as well. Click to access the reports.Geena Davis Institue on Gender Media research webpage


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