Keira Knightley and Time’s Up celebrate female-led London film festival

This year’s BFI London Film Festival has 40% of all films directed or co-directed by women.

Press Association
Last updated: 2 October 2019 - 12.30pm

Keira Knightley has joined British film directors, actors and writers in celebrating female representation on and off the screen at this year’s BFI London Film Festival.

The annual film event this year boasts titles such as Blackbird, Rocks and The Aeronauts, which are either female-fronted, directed or celebrate female stories.

Knightley will be seen on screen in Official Secrets playing whistle-blower Katharine Gun.

A Life in Pictures with Keira Knightley
Keira Knightley said she is proud to have been one of the first UK catalysts of Time’s Up (PA)

She said: “I am so proud to have been one of the first UK catalysts of the Time’s Up movement and see the change that is happening through our work.

“This year 64% of films in competition at the London Film Festival were directed by women.

“In my industry we have the power and responsibility as storytellers to tell more balanced stories.

“Even though male leads continue to outnumber female leads two-to-one, films with female-leads make 38.1% more at the box office, this is a clear economic case for gender parity.

“Visibility of women in leadership roles within films also provide the most influential models for girls, impacting on their self-worth and aspirations.”

The actress, 34, said that as a part of Time’s Up “recalibrating the gender power balance is essential to change the culture of the work environment across all industries to make them safer and more equitable so we can leave this positive legacy for our children”.

Investitures at Buckingham Palace
Dame Heather Rabbatts  is the UK chair of Time’s Up (PA)

Time’s Up UK chair Dame Heather Rabbatts said that, while 2018 was “a year of reckoning, 2019 is a year of action”.

She said it is about “continuing the work we have started together to challenge the ingrained inequalities in our industry, indeed in all industries”.

The Time’s Up movement was created in 2018 amid sexual assault and harassment allegations emerging in the entertainment industry.

Earlier this year they launched the 4% challenge, with the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, urging members of the industry to commit to working with a female director within the next 18 months.

It refers to the statistic that just 4% of the 1,200 top grossing films over the last decade were directed by women.

Dame Heather said: “We know that actions like Time’s Up’s #4PercentChallenge, which campaign to shift the balance of female directors, are one step forward, but we need to do more, and it’s not complicated.

“We need to hire women, invest in women and pay women the same rate as men.

“We need to collectively commit to these goals as one totality.”

She praised the LFF and said it is “encouraging that this year’s London Film Festival exceeds 50:50 gender targets for films in competition and there is also a 50:50 split in the programming team”.

At this year’s festival, films will compete for various awards in categories including the best film, directorial debut, documentary and short film.

This year 78 countries are represented across more than 200 short films and features on the LFF line-up, with 40% of all films directed or co-directed by women.

59th BFI London Film Festival – Suffragette Premiere
Director Sarah Gavron has said her film Rocks is a story about an East End girl, friendships and the sisterhood (PA)

British film director Sarah Gavron, whose film Rocks will feature at LFF, said: “We were all brought up on coming of age films, but they so often revolved around boys. Rocks is the story of an East End girl and her group of friends, their friendship and sisterhood.

“It was made as a true collaboration between the young women in the film and the creative team who were predominantly female.  As a woman filmmaker I feel compelled to and excited by directing authentic female led stories, which show women in all their complexity”.

She praised Time’s Up for their work in campaigning for gender equality, in front of and behind the camera. She said it was “incredibly close to my own heart and will ultimately give the next generation of women inspiration and aspirations as they see themselves represented on the screen.”

Blackbird stars an all-female trio of Susan Sarandon, Mia Wasikowska and Kate Winslet, while The Aeronauts sees Felicity Jones playing fictional air balloon pilot Amelia Wren.

The Aeronauts director Tom Harper said: “Cinema, like ballooning, has traditionally been a male dominated industry, which has resulted in a natural bias toward male-centric narratives.

“But times are changing, and the industry is finally beginning to not only acknowledge our responsibility to make films led by multi-faceted female characters, but also to enjoy the great opportunities in storytelling this brings.”

Wild Rose Premiere – 62nd BFI London Film Festival
Tom Harper also directed Wild Rose (PA)

“On occasion I have been asked why, as a male director, I feel able to tell the stories of strong female characters like Rose-Lynn Harlan (Wild Rose) and Amelia Wren (The Aeronauts) and my response to that has always been the same.

“I’ve felt free to tell the stories that inspire me socially and creatively, whatever these might be, and these stories are, as in life, not limited to stories about men.

“That’s why I want to stand up in support of the Time’s Up movement, as I feel passionately that no filmmaker or film professional should have to feel limited by their gender.”

The BFI London Film Festival runs from October 2 to October 13.

More from BT