London fest place for women to shine


LONDON -- For Rachel Millward, artistic director of the Birds Eye View Film Festival, losing her diary less than a month before the festival unspools is not ideal preparation to ensure her event goes smoothly.

But Millward points out that the timing isn't as bad as it could have been.

Millward is less than four weeks away from seeing more than a year's work come to fruition for what will be the biggest and busiest festival since Birds Eye View launched in 2002.

"It is not the best thing to happen, losing your diary," Millward says breezily while sipping a decaffeinated coffee in a North London cafe. "But at least most things are organized now and we are heading towards the festival and not scrambling around putting it all together."

Designed to celebrate, highlight and showcase work by women in entertainment, Millward's event has grown from very humble beginnings.

Starting out as an evening of just five short films by female writers and directors, the festival now finds itself attracting more than 600 admissions for slots and expects to sell more than 6,000 tickets. This year's event runs March 6-14 and will include master classes, workshops, special programs and a documentary section held at venues across the British capital.

"We're on a political mission, not just a film festival mission," Millward says. "We don't always attract a so-called festival crowd to our events. That's one of the values to distributors. We hit a different crowd so we can be used to generate excellent early word-of-mouth on projects."

Millward is excited by this year's special events, which include a section devoted to female stars of the silver silent screen accompanied by new music scores drawn by female musicians.

"The movies show women doing slapstick, pulling faces and being bonkers. They are very physical in their humor and are not at all the glossy, polished characters women onscreen now have to be," Millward says. "It is really great to watch and highlights how times and perceived audience desire has changed over the years."

Millward is also enthused by her latest innovation to be birthed during the festival -- the First Weekenders Club.

Still in development, the aim would be to promote the opening weekends of features written and/or directed by women. And it doesn't have to be within the festival time.

"We hope to see an online community developing and opening-night events happening year-round and nationwide over the next couple of years," Millward says.

For Millward, though, it's all about the women writing tales and directing. "So few (women) are getting stories out there. And very few are carried by women. It's important this is highlighted."