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Bigger, bolder, brighter future; Festival Director Anna Bogutskaya talks about celebrating Underwire’s 10th Anniversary

Cemented its place in the film festival calendar, Underwire has been screening shorts, features and programming special events all made by or in collaboration with female filmmakers for the last 10 years. As the festival celebrates this anniversary, we speak to Festival Director Anna Bogutskaya about what we can expect from the programme this year and the future as the festival team grows bigger and reach of women in film spreads further than before.  

Katie Hogan: The festival team has grown since last year, can you tell us who the new names/faces are and what they’ll be doing?
Anna Bogutskaya: It felt like the right time, with Underwire having grown so much over the past 3 years, to bring in new blood, fresh ideas, and really dig down into what the festival is but most importantly, what it can be. Joining Underwire are Production Director Kim Sheehan, who'll lead on the operational side of things and smooth delivery of the festival, and Business Director Jasmin Morrison, who'll be working on strategic business growth and development.

[Photo credit: Jaun Gil]

Katie: As the celebrations are taking place in September, which events we should we be rushing to book tickets for if we don’t want to miss out on?
Anna: All of them! There's going to be some really special treats this year. I'm very excited about hosting the first live edition of the Best Girl Grip podcast, and a 10th anniversary presentation of Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank, hosted by Forever Young Film Club. The special programme looking back at Ten Years of Underwire, with a selection of award-winning shorts that have screened at past editions of the festival, is going to be pretty special - and showing at the big screen in the Barbican! And, I have to shout out our retrospectives of the fast-rising stars that are writer/director Charlotte Regan and producer Loran Dunn.

Katie: The continued partnerships with collectives and the festival has not only highlighted that these programmers out there but inspired even more collectives to start up. Can you talk about what unique attributes this brings to the festival and to the film scene?
Anna: For the past few years, I've watched with curiosity and endless admiration what these collectives (especially the ones that are focused on highlighting women's work and/or presenting work to female audiences) have been doing. Film clubs and collectives are the backbone of film culture. They are driven by passion for films and audiences, and are creating new avenues of connecting both. I'm excited by the making those connections, and about helping enable some of these new programming initiatives through Underwire.


Katie: We’ve seen hundreds of films about women made by men but when the genders and positions are switched, it always seems to be something to point out. With the films screened under ‘Men by Women’, this title name appearing again, what do you think the significance is and do think this stands out?
Anna: This has been a recurring programme for the past four years, and I find it always strikes an interesting conversation. Female filmmakers can tell stories about whoever they want, just like any other storyteller or filmmaker. There is an assumption of sorts (and a limited one, in my opinion) that women are only meant to tell women's stories. And the shorts in the 'Men by Women' programme highlight just how adept women writers and directors can tell men's stories just as well.

Katie: As part of the 10th anniversary celebrations, the special event featuring a curated selection of film from the past festivals stands as a centre point. Can you tell us about the films that have been picked and why?
Anna: It was incredibly tricky to pick films from the past decade! This is a curious selection that spotlights some of the incredible filmmakers that have screened at Underwire over the years. I tried to keep a balance between genres, styles, award-winning films, and early work from filmmakers who went on to make features. For example, Deborah Haywood (who's film Sis is playing) directed Pin Cushion, Georgia Parris' Abandon was a proof-of-concept for her feature debut Mari, Claire Oakley is going to premiere her feature Make-Up at the BFI London Film Festival, and Terri Matthew's The Wrong End of the Stick was nominated at the BIFAs and Caroline Bartlett's Operator picked up a BAFTA. It's an inspiring selection of work by some extraordinary filmmakers who are going from strength to strength.


Katie: One part of the festival’s programme are the titles that reflect a shared theme between the films in that category. The festival sets itself apart for covering very specific topics to wider genres. Are these themes what come out from selections or are there predetermined?
Anna: The programme is never pre-determined; the themes arise from the films the programming team watch and our discussions. Genre-based programmes (ie. comedy, horror, sci-fi) pop up regularly, but each year I'm surprised by the themes that arise and that are clearly the main preoccupation or sources of inspiration for filmmakers. Last year, a lot of films were about the female body, for example. This year, one of our programmers noticed films exploring the subject of consent and boundaries, and a programme emerged from that. It's a very organic process, and it allows us room to breathe and respond creatively to the zeitgeist and larger cultural conversations that are happening.

Katie: From the past 10 years, has there been a film or filmmaker or particular selection of films that you can say you’ve enjoyed the most?
Anna: Too many to name! I'd say that the Ten Years of Underwire programme is a good taster (wink wink nudge nudge).

Katie: With the festival acknowledged as being a firm staple in the film festival calendar especially as it has the unique selling point, celebrating women in film, do you feel that festivals with a focus like Underwire are needed more than ever?
Anna: I hope that in the near future there is no need for them, but for the moment, it is a valuable and unique space to spotlight new talent in film, and enable women working across the different crafts, as well as the industry, to make connections with each other and foster new collaborations. And, of course, watch some bloody good films!


Katie: With this year’s programme being bigger, bolder and brimming with new and familiar names, how far do you think the festival can go in the future in terms of programming, people and places?
Anna: Underwire is fantastic - but it can be so much more. I'm excited about Kim and Jasmin joining the team, and on expanding the programming voices so it's never just one person's ideas. I'd like to resurrect our year-round programme of events, talks and networking opportunities for women in film to connect and collaborate, as well develop our training weekender, Wired Women.

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Underwire Festival
Fri 13 - Sun 22 Sep
Various locations
Info and tickets: underwirefestival.com

[Photo credit: Jaun Gil]