The UK’s only international film festival dedicated to celebrating women over 50 returns from 25 September to 2 October 2021.

This autumn, the Women Over 50 Film Festival (WOFFF) will screen 57 short films from over 20 countries in a hybrid programme that combines cinema and online screenings.

The films, which include work from filmmakers in Finland, Iceland, Mexico and the Philippines, will show a selection of award-winning films at Depot cinema in Lewes, East Sussex as well as online via the Eventive independent film festival platform.

The festival aims to defy industry stereotypes and spotlight the experiences, voices and talents of women over 50. It is now in its seventh year and received a record number of entries to this year’s festival, with submissions from over 40 countries.

On Saturday 2 October, WOFFF will host its annual awards programme to recognise the work of older women filmmakers on both sides of the camera. Categories include best animation, best drama, best documentary, best experimental film, best student film, best short script and the audience choice award. One of the prizes is a script consultation with Helen Jacey, founder of Shedunnit Productions and author of The Woman in the Story: Writing Memorable Female Characters.

The awards will feature the inaugural WOFFF TENA Ageless Prize, which is presented to filmmakers whose short film best reflects the TENA theme of “our bodies change but why should we?”. Cash prizes of £500, £300 and £200 will be awarded. The winners will be declared at Depot on 2 October.

Film lovers will get the chance to participate in a Q&A with filmmakers on 2 October at Depot. A panel event, which will be chaired by Rebecca Kesby, reporter and presenter for BBC World Service, will feature film industry experts from both sides of the camera as well as film academics such as Dr Deborah Jermyn from the University of Roehampton. The annual WOFFF lecture will also return this year and be delivered by Professor Kate Taylor-Jones, Professor of East Asian Cinema at Sheffield University, who will discuss the work of 74-year-old Youn Yuh-jung, winner of the 2021 Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in Minari.

Highlights of this year’s festival programme include:

  • Although I Am Retired directed by Feng Tian Xun (China) about a retired bank manager who can’t quite fit in when she joins a local older women’s choir. It is the first year WOFFF has received drama submissions from China and, alongside Stay With Her directed by Yang Chen, is one of two Chinese student films on this year’s programme.
  • Dutchess of the Sea directed by Mayke Pels and Sanne Kranenborg (Netherlands) follows four Dutch women in their 50s as they row across the Atlantic in one of the world’s toughest rowing races.
  • From Pasture Into Hands directed by Thury Bara Birgisdottir (Iceland) is a student film that explores the breathtaking landscape of Iceland and its horse-rearing community.
  • Joy Uncensored directed by Natasha Hawthornthwaite (UK) introduces 64-year-old Joy France as she attempts to break gender and age stereotypes by competing in the brutal, youthful and male-dominated world of battle rap.
  • Nene directed by King Louie Palomo (Canada/Philippines) is a drama about Nene, a painter striving to finish her final work of art. It is the first film made in the Philippines to be screened at WOFFF.
  • Night Drive directed by Despina Athanassiadis (France) is the story of Sabine, a 50-year-old truck driver who is asked to go on the road for a night delivery with a 20-year-old rookie.
  • Something Borrowed directed by Micky Wozny (UK) is a student animation about an older woman (Jane Horrocks) who can’t seem to find the right words for a card she’s writing. But when she lends her pen to a hopeless young man (Jason Watkins) a whirlwind chase ensues.
  • The Blue Bed directed by Alireza Kazemipour (Iran) examines the themes of sexual needs and desires, topics often taboo in Iran and many other countries. On the same day that Zahra visits a temporary marriage agency, she hires a young sex worker, Negar. As they travel through the city in Zahra’s car, their relationship shifts as secrets unfold and Zahra’s unusual request emerges.

Director and founder of WOFFF, Nuala O’Sullivan, said: “We have received more submissions than ever this year and the WOFFF 2021 programme brings together a collection of extraordinary films from over 20 countries.

“I believe that older women must be seen and heard and our programme shows that they have plenty to say – and the creativity to express themselves both behind and in front of the camera.”

The WOFFF 2021 programme explores many topics including women’s roles and experiences in retirement, women who take on extraordinary challenges in later life, and family secrets, as well as older women’s love, friendship, sexuality and desire. The festival line-up includes multi-award-winning festival picks from experienced filmmakers, alongside films from first-time and student filmmakers.

The inaugural WOFFF TENA Ageless Prize will encourage women filmmakers to embrace the opportunities of ageing. Meta Redstedt, Global Master Brand and Communications, TENA, says: “At TENA we aim to empower and improve women’s wellbeing by destigmatising the negative stereotypes around ageing and incontinence. Our decision to sponsor WOFFF 2021 builds on our mission to challenge these perceptions in society of female ageing, by portraying women 50+ in real and positive ways never usually seen on screen or behind the camera. We’re delighted that WOFFF 2021 has received a record number of submissions, and we are very excited to see how the filmmakers have interpreted the theme of ‘our bodies change, but why should we?’.

Tickets start from £7 (£3.50 concessions) and are available from https://wofff21.eventive.org/passes/buy.

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