There were 5 films in this category, a mixture of documentary and fiction. This award showcases films with females as the lead character (although the website’s typo on this was confusing but I worked it out).
First up was Recommended Washing Powder by Chloe White, a documentary about Kaz a North London woman who works in her local launderette on Blackstock Road. The lead character was engaging and funny and the whole thing was shot in the launderette. The live action pieces of this were the most engaging; Kaz’s old fashioned values and free admission to hating change warms you to her and the way she interacts with her customers is charming. The use of voice overs set to the images of washing machines/washing powder etc became a bit repetitive and perhaps this conceit was pushed too far. Overall this was a good character study that managed to touch upon the feel of the diversity of the big city and its tenuous connections between people in their everyday lives.
A fictional offering was next; Morning by Cathy Brady was the tale of a bereaved woman dealing with the press. It had some great acting and was very atmospheric in tone but ultimately this was the weakest film of the night (it is worth pointing out that it was a Film School film in this situation).
Motorbike Midwife by Masumi Higashi was our second documentary which followed the exploits of Linda a midwife in Ghana who visited and collected her charges on said motorbike of the title. This was an engaging insight into a completely different world to ours in terms of how we deal with giving birth. Once watched you will feel very lucky indeed that we have all the modern trappings but on the other hand there is a simplicity and naturalness to the experiences of the women here which divests it of the drama we might otherwise expect. There is a lady in the film who I shall only describe as the “hole lady”, the look on her face when she is examining the women in various stages of labour made me wince. The style of shooting this with no voice over but simply letting the story and the characters speak for themselves as events unfolded is perfect; seeing Linda at home with her own baby was a perfect counterpoint to the pain and exhaustion we were seeing in the clinic. I’m sticking with kittens frankly.
Our second and final fictional film was The Farmer’s Wife by Francis Lee. This is a story of a widow in Yorkshire trying to sort out the transition once her husband dies and she has to leave the family farm. It’s obviously got a good budget and there are some beautiful shots. The acting chops of Geraldine James carries this film throughout and without her there would be little to it.
The final film was a documentary Frank Chickens – The Movie by Ollie Verschoyle & Rob Makin, about long time female Japanese comedy troupe led by Kazuko Hohki. Using footage of current stage shows and vox pops from the like of Stewart Lee this was one of those documentaries that left you wanting more. The lead herself is an intriguing character and I will most certainly try and check out one of her shows on the basis of this.
Overall Underwire should be supported at every turn for showcasing underrepresented women in the film industry so I recommend you keep your eye out for its future events.