We team up with Birds’ Eye View to bring you a female-focused film review of 2020. Despite the knockback the film industry as a whole has faced this year, a record number of films by women were released in cinemas and on digital. Host Anna Smith welcomes Mia Bays, Delphine Lievens and Allison Gardner onto this very special episode to discuss the highlights. Delphine, the Senior Box Office Analyst for Gower Street, delves into the intersections of the stats. Allison, the CEO at Glasgow Film, looks at how cinemas have been coping. And Mia unpacks the work Birds’ Eye View has done this year. Together, they offer a positive and critically constructive outlook on the intersectional inclusion of women in all areas of the film industry. Stay tuned for special appearances from some of the most celebrated filmmakers of 2020, from Halina Dyrschka to Zeina Durra.
In this lively episode, Anna is first joined by freelance journalist and her regular karaoke companion, Kat Brown. A massive fan of Pitch Perfect, Kat enthusiastically delves into the comedic and authentic female friendships presented on screen. Looking at how the film has aged, they explore both where Pitch Perfect hits the right notes and where it may need a little tuning. Kat mentions some other musical movies she’s been watching, spanning classic and cult favourites.
Next, Anna talks to some real-life Barden Bellas. Jade Harvey and Gina Dunn are two members of Cardiff University’s DeciBelles, an award-winning all-female a cappella group. They speak to the sisterhood of their singing society and compare their experiences with those of the Bellas.
Finally, Anna welcomes musician and old friend Charley Stone to the show for a festive twist. Charley talks about her new single, Merry Christmas Actually. Inspired by Love Actually’s cue cards scene, this song takes a feminist stance on the infamous moment.
Kat’s recommendations: Grease 2, My Fair Lady, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Secret Garden, Hook, Nanny McPhee | Gina’s and Jade’s recommendations: Once, Rock of Ages | Charley’s recommendations: Edward Scissorhands, Swallows and Amazons, The Railway Children | Anna’s recommendations: I’m Your Woman, Wonder Woman 1984
This episode enters the world of stripping, with a focus on the film Hustlers. Anna’s first guest is Grace Barber-Plentie, a freelance film programmer and writer who recently curated a Barbican film event on Reframing the Fat Body. Grace draws our attention to a particular film in her programme that normalises fat pole dancers: Dangerous Curves. This segues into a celebration of Lizzo’s appearance in Hustlers and more generally the brilliant performances of the ensemble cast.
Grace and Anna revere the female friendships presented on screen, particularly between the characters played by Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu. Such strong bonds and respect between female strippers comes to life, as Anna speaks to friends and strippers Chiqui Love and Stacey Clare. As members of the Berlin Strippers Collective and East London Strippers Collective respectively, Chiqui and Stacey talk intersectional feminism, the issues facing the strip club industry, and misrepresentations of sex work on screen. They speak up for sex workers’ rights and envision what Hustlers 2 should look like…
Recommendations… Grace: P-Valley, Small Axe (series). Chiqui: Bombshell. Stacey: Harlots (series), The Deuce (series).
Other mentions: Dangerous Curves (short), 9 to 5, The Wrestler (2008), Showgirls, The Full Monty, Shameless (series).
Luxor stars Andrea Riseborough as a British aid worker navigating the Egyptian city as she meets her ex-boyfriend and struggles from recent traumas. Writer-director Zeina Durra (The Imperialists Are Still Alive!) and our first ever cinematographer guest Zelmira Gainza chat to Anna about their film. The friends talk Anna through their careers so far, from their Fame-like experiences at NYU, to the challenges they’ve faced as women in executive roles on film sets. Turning to Luxor, Zeina reveals what it was like to work with actor Andrea Riseborough, and Zelmira gives a fascinating insight into her role as DOP.
Delving further into Luxor, Anna and critic Leslie Felperin celebrate how the film creates a sense of place and pulls us in with its mysteries, brilliant performances and playfulness. They then move on to two more new releases. First they discuss the jazzy upcoming family animation Soul and praise Disney-Pixar’s original and earnest storytelling. Finally, they look at the inspiring new documentary I Am Belmaya.
What they’ve been watching… Zeina: Mangrove, The Queen’s Gambit, The Crown. Zelmira: Chaos, Star Wars. Leslie: The Crown, The Undoing, Brave New World, The Nest (2020). Anna: The Third Day.
Other mentions: Fame, The Princess and the Frog (2009), Joanna Hogg’s films, Inside Out.
This episode dives into Truth Seekers, the new paranormal Prime Video series and latest collaborative effort of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Anna Smith talks to its two female stars: Susan Wokoma (Helen) and Emma D’Arcy (Astrid).
First, Susan (Chewing Gum, Year of the Rabbit) tells Anna how she prepared for the role of Helen and enthusiastically recalls what it was like to work with comic icons Simon and Nick. She further talks about discussing representation on set and celebrates the process of ageing in women. Stay tuned as Susan shares her very own spectral sighting…
Next up, Emma (Hanna, Misbehaviour) delves into Astrid’s mentality and tells Anna about a particular onset mishap. Discussing the nostalgic movies referenced in Truth Seekers, they consider whether there has been an improvement in the way that horror movies treat their female characters. Finally, Emma talks gun-wielding in Prime Video series Hanna and shares her personal connection to the spiritual world.
Film and TV Recommendations. Susan: La Haine, Pose. Emma: The Sopranos, True Blood, I May Destroy You, the Coen brothers films, and anything with Frances McDormand! Anna: For Sama, Love Child.
Other mentions: Spaced (on Prime Video), The Cornetto Trilogy (watch all 3 movies on Prime Video), Chewing Gum, Year of the Rabbit, Hereditary, Midsommar (on Prime Video), Prime Suspect, The Exorcist, Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Anna invites writer-director Veena Sud (The Killing, Seven Seconds) and actor Mireille Enos to discuss The Lie, part of Amazon Prime Video’s Welcome To The Blumhouse series. Shot in the snowy suburbs of Toronto, this unsettling crime-drama shows a young girl’s terrible secret unravel in horrifying ways. Beware of minor spoilers.
Veena talks to Anna about what drew her to adapting The Lie, and why it was important to address social issues such as the sexualisation of women and racial profiling. She further speaks to the importance of diversity in positions of power in filmmaking and criticism. Veena also produces some fantastic film recommendations for Halloween, including Night of the Living Dead and It Follows.
Mireille talks about playing Rebecca, the mother of Kayla (Joey King), and speaks highly of Veena’s directorial skills. She also revisits her roles in Hanna and The Killing, both also available to watch on Prime Video now. Keep listening to hear Mireille’s own terrible secret about horror movies…
Finally, critic Kayleigh Donaldson shares her thoughts on the Suspiria remake, American Psycho, and Midsommar – all on Amazon Prime Video now. They also talk about the recent female-focused horror releases Saint Maud, Carmilla, Relic and Cordelia. Finally, Kayleigh recommends Carnival of Souls (1962) and the works of Ida Lupino, and suggests checking out the horror streaming service Shudder on Amazon.
Other movie mentions: Seven Seconds (2018), Fright Night, The Witches (2020), The Captive (2014).
Saoirse-Monica Jackson joins host Anna Smith, along with talented young filmmakers Ruby Phelan and Neeraja Raj.
From matriarchs to mishaps, Saoirse delves into the making of Derry Girls. This coming-of-age comedy series follows teenager Erin Quinn (Saoirse) and her friends as they navigate religion and rivalries in 90s Ireland. She also praises Cinemagic as a platform for young people and delivers a hopeful message to young filmmakers and actors.
Next, Anna chats to Ruby and Neeraja about their short films screening at Cinemagic. Ruby tells us what inspired her to make mixed-medium short The Mermaid & The Artist and advises young women to stop seeking permission. Neeraja talks about her existential musical animation Meow Or Never and her hopes to see more women of colour filmmakers.
Critic and founder of The British Blacklist Akua Gyamfi and BAFTA-nominated filmmaker Victoria Thomas join Anna for a lively episode celebrating Black voices in film.
Focusing on the powerful Queen & Slim, they praise the diversity of Black experiences presented on screen and discuss THAT sex scene. They further commend Melina Matsoukas’ skillful direction, consider Shiona Turini’s iconic costume choices, and explore the complexity of the character Queen, as played by Jodie Turner-Smith and penned by Lena Waithe. This inspires a dive into politics, class, the importance of Black-owned film companies, and the awards season.
Pressing on, Akua shares her intimate connection to the film Farming and Victoria finds a filmmaking masterclass in If Beale Street Could Talk. Finally, they applaud the inspiring Black woman at the centre of the upcoming documentary Time.
Celebrating our 50th episode, actors Sasha Lane and Ashleigh LaThrop join the party to talk about their roles in Gillian Flynn’s Utopia, now streaming on Amazon Prime Video. An intense adaptation of Dennis Kelly’s British television series, the show follows a team of comic book fans as they try to prevent a viral pandemic.
Sasha delves into the twisted psychology of her character, the infamous Jessica Hyde, and hints at the new layers that Gillian has brought to the story. Stay tuned for Sasha’s tips on how to urinate standing up.
Next, Ashleigh LaThrop speaks to Anna about the challenges of her role as Becky, and the nerdy antics that herself and Gillian got up to on set. She also shares her experience working on The Handmaid’s Tale, expresses her love for Meryl Streep, and talks about representation on screen.
Our 50th episode concludes with a special trivia competition, giving you lucky listeners the chance to win a pair of Forbidden Forest cinema tickets!
Writer and director Channing Godfrey Peoples joins Anna for an eye-opening discussion about her new film, Miss Juneteenth. In UK cinemas from 25th September 2020, this movie is a warm and intimate portrait of former pageant winner Turquoise Jones (Nicole Beharie), as she prepares her daughter, Kai (Alexis Chikaeze), for the annual Miss Juneteenth pageant and navigates her life within the close-knit Black community of Fort Worth, Texas.
Channing reveals the personal inspiration behind her story, explains the role that the arts can play in the Black Lives Matter movement, and hints at what she is working on next.
Next, Anna welcomes fellow critic Corrina Antrobus back to the show to review the film. They talk about Nicole’s remarkable performance, the nuanced relationships presented onscreen, and the significance of a ‘dream deferred’.
This jam-packed show also includes fantastic film recommendations. Channing provides a detailed watchlist: Killer Of Sheep and My Brother’s Wedding by Charles Burnett, Daughters of the Dust (dir. Julie Dash), Eve’s Bayou (dir. Kasi Lemmons), Beyond The Lights (dir. Gina Prince-Bythewood), and Rachel Getting Married (dir. Jonathan Demme). And Corrina suggests Rocks (dir. Sarah Gavron), Babyteeth (dir. Shannon Murphy), Make Up (dir. Claire Oakley), and In My Room (dir. Mati Diop).