A review of GGMFF 2021

by Amber Phillips, Festival volunteer

On 18th – 21st March 2021, GlobalGirl Media UK hosted their very first film festival. Not only was it their first film festival but due to the COVID-19 restrictions, it took place online and it was nothing short of fantastic.

Like many other young women who are hoping to get into the film industry, I volunteered to be part of the post-production team but my role eventually became much more than that. I wanted to be involved in an event that focused around giving young women a voice as well as showcasing their filmmaking talents. It is already so difficult to get a start in the entertainment and creative industry, let alone when you are a women or from a minority. When I found out that GlobalGirl Media’s aim was to give women from all backgrounds that opportunity, I knew that this was the place for me.

GlobalGirl Media UK’s aim is not only to give female filmmakers a platform but to extend training and learning opportunities to diverse young women, provide networking opportunities with industry professionals and peers, raise awareness for the media training that GGM UK provides and to promote women in media and film, both behind and in front of the cameras, in order to achieve more equal representation in the industry.

The festival itself showcased over 30 short films from over 150 countries, many of which covered topics that are extremely relevant in this day and age (I’ll get more into that later!). Although the films that were submitted had to be directed by self-identifying women, the festival welcomed all ages and genders.

The event took place over four days:

Day One: An introduction to the festival by Programme Manager Dami Omole, GGM UK Ambassador Yalda Hakim of BBC World News, and Youth Ambassador Aisha Clarke, was followed by a review of the best films in competition, by Anna Smith of the Girls on Film Podcast, with GGM UK founder trustee and documentary maker Sue Carpenter. Lastly, there was a panel talk with Mia Bays and Isra Al Kassi from the charity Birds’ Eye View.

Day Two: A first filmmaker Q&A on Mental Health and Disability (hosted by yours truly), a workshop with Twitch and the screening of the feature documentary ‘I Am Belmaya,’ which was followed by a Q&A with the director Sue Carpenter.

Day Three: A career talk with Uzma Mir, an executive producer in children’s television at the BBC, and a filmmaker Q&A on Sexual Harassment and Violence. There was also a live workshop on finding your voice with Tamara Jacobs, content strategist and a founder trustee of GGM UK, and a keynote session with filmmaker and broadcaster Yalda Hakim, who spoke about finding your point of difference.

Day Four: A career talk with Zara Janjua, a producer, filmmaker and presenter, our second live workshop with Tamara Jacobs that focused on developing your story, and the awards ceremony hosted by chair of the jury Anna Smith along with 9 other jury members, all prominent women in film.

As you can see, it was totally jam-packed!

The films? Incredible. So many issues and challenges that women face everyday were brought to the screen; issues from women in the West and developing countries, issues on disability, sexual harassment, gender inequality and patriarchal issues. If you are a human being, there is a film (or three) that would have spoken to you.

One topic that arose time and time again was sexual harassment. Films such as Run Amok by Gala Diaz Fernandez and The Museum by Celine Floyd tackled the theme in two very different ways. Run Amok was a revenge film much like Thelma and Louise and Promising Young Woman whereas The Museum was an animation that explained what it is like to be made to feel like your body is not your own. The filmmaker Q&A on Sexual Harassment and Violence spoke to both of these directors and two others on why they made their films, why they chose the style and tones of the films and what the directors wanted the audience to take from watching their films. As it was a film festival by women, the ways in which these topics were covered were done so in a touching and relatable way which also allowed room for education within the audience.

Other films that stood out were Hattie, Hamda and Aguan - Sun Behind the Horizon. Hattie was a moving documentary that followed the life of 16-year-old Hattie who suffers from spina bifida, allowing the audience to understand that there is more to someone than their disability. Hamda was about a woman racing driver in UAE and Aguan was followed a female rickshaw driver in Bangladesh. Both films challenge the audience’s views on women taking on masculine roles in a patriarchal society.

As a volunteer and (hopeful) future filmmaker, I have been honoured to take part in an event that so openly celebrates women, not to mention having been given the opportunity to host a panel on something that is so close to my heart. I have to say a massive thank you and shoutout to Dami, Yalda, Aisha and Ami. These four women are not only insanely talented and inspirational but have been so supportive throughout the entire process.

I can honestly say that GlobalGirl Media UK put together a fantastic film festival and I can’t wait to be a part of the next one!


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