Updated: May 10
Looking back over the past year in film – our 19th year as Birds’ Eye View, and my first as its director – is a stark reminder of why the interventions we make in our mission to end gender inequity and injustice in film are still needed.
Of the 588 films released theatrically in the UK this year, 143 were made by women (director, co-director, and/or writer or co-writer with at least 50% female credit), accounting for only 24% of all 2022 UK film releases. Not only did this mark a 6% drop from last year, but we’re seeing five years of (slow) progress undone and back to 2018 levels.
Last week we celebrated the first time a female-directed title – JEANNE DIELMAN by Chantal Akerman – topped the Sight & Sound poll in its 70 year history, but it was one of only 11 female-led titles, an increase of just 2 films from the poll ten years ago in 2012. Though our data relates only to writers and directors, and films are a much more collaborative endeavour than that, we know that with women at the helm, creatively, more women are likely to be recruited into other creative roles: cinematography, sound, editing, etc.
This year, however, we have seen a marked rise in creative control over projects, through the number of women directing solo or with another woman (18.7%), rather than as co-director – an all-time high since we’ve been tracking releases in 2017, and something we reflected on this time last year (here). The same cannot be said of the number of films written solely by women vs those co-written with men, which has dropped to 12.6% from 14.2% in 2021. (note: directed or written means entirely female and co-directed or co-written is at least 50% female)
The number of films written and directed by Black women and women of colour – a minority within a minority across the key creative roles in cinema – has gone up significantly, from what we know was a very low bar indeed. 36 out of a total of 128 female directors/co-directors whose films were released in 2022 (28%) were by Black women and women of colour directors, which was a notable increase from last year (19%) – but still some way short of 2020’s all-time high (33%), and still represents only 36 of 588 releases (6%) all together.
So, what have we been doing this past year at Birds’ Eye View?
Over the course of 2022 so far, we have supported 30+ films and curated 2 programmes (Queerious and Queeriosities from the Archive), engaging audiences through 70+ live events in 16 cities across the UK plus online, as part of our Reclaim The Frame project. All films are written and / or directed by women and non-binary filmmakers, and one third by Black and women of colour directors. As part of our ongoing mission to champion women and non-binary led perspectives in cinema and to connect with audiences through community building and conversation, we continue to reach an increasingly diverse audience – this year 34% aged under 30, 24% identifying as BIPOC, 22% as LGBTQI+, 22% as D/deaf/ disabled and 18% disadvantaged.
This year we were proud to be nominated for Screen International’s Screen Awards for Best Diversity and Inclusion Project, while our theatrical tour of documentary REBEL DYKES was also nominated for engaging a diverse and intergenerational audience. Other projects have seen Reclaim the Frame go international, through partnerships with women’s film festivals in Lebanon, Taiwan, Tunisia and Turkey, taking our shared mission overseas and bringing films from Asia and North Africa to cities across the UK. And in the New Year, we’re preparing to announce our 2023 cohort for the seventh iteration of Filmonomics, our flagship training programme for first time feature film directors and producers.
All of this has been made possible by the small, dedicated team of which I’m proud to be part – those who showed me the ropes when I started last October, and those we’ve since recruited with a view to developing impact across the UK. With the support of a Board of Trustees who welcomed new recruits this Summer and the new Advisory Group we assembled to support our plans for 2023+. And with thanks to the 20+ cinemas that make up our network, and numerous partners across the UK.
For now, you can catch us at our last event for 2022 this evening (ZUHAL by Nazli Elif Durlu) before we close Birds’ Eye View HQ for the holiday.
2023 marks our 20th anniversary as a charity, and we’ll be back with a fresh look and an exciting line up starting with ALL THE BEAUTY & THE BLOODSHED by Laura Poitras, SAINT OMER by Alice Diop and BLUE JEAN by Georgia Oakley over the January and February months. Meanwhile you’ll find us revelling in CORSAGE by Marie Kreutzer as our Boxing Day film of choice.
I came into this role often describing Birds’ Eye View as a charity that strives to not exist; however, judging by the figures above, we still have so much more work to do in addressing the inequity and injustice behind the statistics.
Wishing a happy holidays to all of our audiences, advocates and allies, and we hope to see you in a cinema venue sometime soon.