#BFIGirlfriends: Celebrating Female Friendships in Film

I was fortunate enough to have been invited to London’s BFI on Southbank this week to attend a screening and a tasting of their new menu, curated by London Calling and the BFI. The screening was a part of their current ‘Girlfriend’s’ season which celebrates trailblazing women filmmakers and some of the best portrayals of female relationships in film.

This trend of celebrating female friends in film has been called by the BFI, “less of an evolution than a rebirth.” One that seems to have followed a path paved out by the beloved yet overlooked film; Claudia Weill’s 1978 debut, Girlfriends. The film follows Susan (Melanie Mayron) and Anne (Anita Skinner), close friends who share a flat together, and just about everything else, in New York. Susan finds herself alone for the first time when Anne gets married and moves out. She’s learning how to make ends meet, progress her photography career and have meaningful relationships without her best friend by her side.

At the time of its release, Girlfriends was a critical success. It went on to win People’s Choice at Toronto International Film Festival and saw a BAFTA nomination for Mayron. Flash forward thirty-something years and Claudia Weill and her ground-breaking debut are all but forgotten.

Monika Bartyzel, wrote in her piece ‘Girlfriends: The Most Influential Film About Female Friendship You’ve Never Heard Of’, that “Frances and Sophie in Frances Ha are this generations Susan and Anne. Their friendship is tight, intrusive and uncompromising until Sophie finds love. Frances figures out how to be on her own.” It’s clear today that many of our cherished women in film were somehow inspired by Girlfriends, from Ghost World, which could pass as an unofficial sequel, to films like Frances Ha, Girls and Bridesmaids.

Directors now like Greta Gerwig, with her own debut Lady Bird finding critical acclaim, will hopefully pave the same path in their careers but not be forgotten about in the way Weill was.

The BFI continue to create a space for female filmmakers and their stories in everything they do, but you have just one more week to catch a screening at their Girlfriends season. Highlights include The Guilty Feminist LIVE! And a screening of 2 Friends featuring an intro by Isabel Stevens and Sophie Monks Kaufman.

 

by Millicent Thomas

Millicent Thomas is a proud Mancunian who will be studying film at Bath School of Art & Design from September 2018. Hobbies include theatre, museums and waiting for Charles Xavier to show up and tell her she’s the world’s most powerful mutant. Her favourite films include Whiplash, Her, Logan and Short Term 12. You can follow her on Instagram at @millicentathomas and twitter at @millicentonfilm

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