sexual awakenings

The BFI are celebrating female desire on screen with a new online film season
Film+TV | 24 April 2020
Text Finn Blythe

Above image: Still, Dirty Dancing, 1987, dir. Emile Ardolino

Launching today, the BFI are celebrating female desire on screen with a series of screenings and online events that flip the switch, highlighting feminine lust and sexuality previously obscured by the dominant narrative of the male gaze.

“Movies have long influenced the way we think about sex,” says the seasons programmer Christina Newland. “For women, those formative crushes often give us room to think about our more unspoken desires or preferences in a safe environment, communing with the fiction playing out on screen.”


Bound (1996) dir. Catherine Bray / courtesy BFI

Beginning with a series of online screenings, including old classics like Luis Buñuel’s Belle De Jour (1967) and Ardolino’s Dirty Dancing (1987), queer love stories in Bound (1996) and formative tales of sexual awakening with Diary of a Teenage Girl (2014), the series is an opportunity to explore the nuanced depictions of female desire. Supplementing these screenings are a number of special events and discussions available via the BFI’s YouTube channel, including a panel discussion on the 1996 thriller Bound, with director Catherine Bray and film critic Willow Catelyn Maclay.


Set It Off (1996) dir. F. Gary Gray

Girls on Film, the podcast started by film critic Anna Smith as a way of discussing films from a female perspective, will be hosting a special episode on Tuesday 5th May in which Smith will ask listeners to share a film that provided some form of sexual awakening. Recommendations at the ready!

Female Desire On Screen launches on BFI Player and BFI YouTube from Friday 24 April.


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