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British women filmmakers dominate BIFA 2023

Written by Tom Symmons

It has been an exciting year for British women filmmakers who once again dominate the nominations for the 2023 British Independent Film Awards. This year is all the more remarkable for the explosion in new female film talent with no less than twelve feature film debuts - two more than 2022 - which are up for a total of seventy-two BIFAs across all awards categories. What is more, over half of the debut features are directed by women of colour - over three times the number from last year - and one debut, which, unfortunately, is still extremely rare, was directed by a woman with disability.

How To Have Sex (Molly Manning Walker), Rye Lane (Raine Allen-Miller) and Scrapper (Charlotte Regan) - three narrative features displaying stylistic flair and a refreshing attitude towards under- and mis-represented young female experiences - claim forty-three noms between them. All three films have been nominated in five of the main categories: Best British Independent Film, Best Screenplay, Best Director, Best Debut Director and Best Debut Screenwriter.

Documentary features by women also feature strongly at this year’s awards with four out of five noms in the Best Debut Director - Feature Documentary category for If The Streets Were On Fire (Alice Russell), Is Anybody Out There? (Ella Glendining), Another Body (co-dir.Sophie Compton) and The Taste of Mango (Chloe Abrahams), four engaging films grappling with difficult issues from a female perspective. If The Streets Were On Fire and Another Body are also up for the Best Feature Documentary award.

Five other feature debuts from female directors are in the running for awards: Mahalia Belo’s powerful post-apocalyptic drama, The End We Start From, received nine nominations, most significantly Best Lead Performance for Jodie Comer. Adura Onashile’s gritty and intimate family drama, Girl, has two noms including Breakthrough Performance nominee. Perhaps surprisingly, Pretty Red Dress - Dionne Edwards’ playful unpicking of Black queer masculinity - received nominations for only Best Supporting Performance and Breakthrough Producer. The poetic yet unflinching portrait of black motherhood on the margins in Earth Mama (Savanah Leaf) is up for Best Debut Director and Best Lead Performance. And, finally, original and arresting Brit-Asian action comedy, Polite Society (Nida Manzoor) is up for five awards, including Best Debut Screenwriter.

We hope this year’s BIFA nominations herald greater gender equality in the director’s chair in the coming years. After three years without any increase - women directors accounted for just 20% of UK films released in 2020, 2021 and 2022 - this figure rose to 23% in the first half of 2023. Although still unacceptably low, this figure is moving in the right direction; boosted by the new wave of female filmmaking talent recognised by this year’s awards nominations, it may continue to do so.

We’re wishing all the nominees the best of luck for this Sunday. Follow all the action over on BIFA’s instagram page at @bifa_film, where they’ll be announcing all the winners.

You can also catch the BIFA nominated Earth Mama at our special preview on Monday 4 December, 6.20pm at Curzon Hoxton, where director Savanah Leaf will be joining us for a post-screening conversation - find out more here.


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