A festival championing women over 50, on the big screen and behind the camera, took place in Brighton last weekend.
The Women Over 50 Film Festival (WOFFF) is an international film festival aiming to redress the age and gender imbalance older women face in the film industry.
This September’s third annual weekend of films and activities for older women was the largest event to date with 55 films being screened, from the 150 submissions received from around the world, the largest number of submissions ever received.
At Sunday evening’s awards ceremony, prizes were awarded to filmmakers who had submitted short films into the categories for Best Animation, FilmDoo Best Drama, Best Documentary, Best Experimental Film, and the all-important Emerald Life Audience Choice Award.
WOFFF can reveal that this year’s winners are: Best Animation - Espressivo: A Love Song to Coffee by Deb Ethier; Best Experimental - Cherry Colour Buttonholes by Brenda Miller; FilmDoo Best Drama - The Hide by Gaynor Macfarlane; Best Documentary - Rebel Menopause by Adele Tulli; and the Emerald Life Audience Choice - Days of Awe by Rehanna Rose.
Brenda Miller, who won the WOFFF Best Experimental Film Award, said: “It’s so lovely to be recognised for my work amongst peers. WOFFF is a celebration of talented film makers who just happen to be older women. The festival atmosphere is so warm, supportive and welcoming - maybe that’s part of who we are as older women.”
Winning the FilmDoo Best Drama award, Gaynor Macfarlane said: “On behalf of The Hide cast and crew I’m delighted to receive this WOFFF award. It means a lot to have our hard work celebrated in this way. It is also a huge accolade to be recognised as a female film-maker over 50 by WOFFF. This festival is a necessary celebration of the wisdom which comes with age. We would also like to thank the Scottish Film Talent Network for their support.”
Winning the Emerald Life Audience Choice Award Rehanna Rose said: “It’s a fantastic feeling winning the Audience Choice Award. It’s a very special award – it’s a grassroots one that’s from a diverse selection of the people who came to WOFFF to watch the films. It’s a really delightful award to win.”
This year’s festival included work from filmmakers in the UK, Ireland, France, Australia, USA Canada, plus new countries including Afghanistan, Iran and Egypt. There was also an impressive line-up of on-screen talent from actors such as Maureen Lipman, Miriam Margolyes, Carrie Cohen, Ewan MacIntosh, Sheila Reid and Maureen Beattie. Short films screening at WOFFF starring household names Denise Welch and Anita Dobson showed that women over 50 are finding roles in front of the camera and they are here to stay.
Carrie Cohen (Just Saying) was amongst over 30 actors and filmmakers who attended the festival to see their work on the big screen and participate in post-screening Q&As. Carrie said “I think it’s fantastic to have a film festival particularly aimed at women who are involved in film and over 50 because women over 50 are quite often ignored.”
Denise Welch said: “To say it’s an honour to have my film Black Eyed Susan screen at the Women Over 50 Film Festival is an understatement. I am a woman well over 50 now and I, like a lot of women, not just in the media but in life generally, am made to feel invisible. I had drug problems, I had alcohol problems, I was self-medicating my mental illness – Black Eyed Susan is in a way about that mental illness. But do you know something? My life began at 50; I’ve had a renewed interest in life since I turned 50. I’ve got a lot to offer; we women offer 50 have a lot to offer, and along with WOFFF, I just want to celebrate women - in all of our glory in every way that we can.”
Festival director Nuala O’Sullivan said: “This year’s festival shows that filmmakers continue to have an appetite to make and share work with older women at its core and, from the festival-goer’s point of view, the appetite for seeing work that’s relevant, life-affirming and inspiring is undiminished.”
Actress Greta Scacchi, who lives near Brighton, supported the event and said: “I am delighted that Women Over 50 Film Festival is here to upset the Hollywood apple cart that accepts actresses playing ten years older while actors can play ten years younger. This festival is unique in celebrating rather than hiding or ignoring older women in film. WOFFF rejoices in our older stories, older faces and older hearts and it is my pleasure to be associated with the festival.”