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Tuesday 17 October 2017

Director Gurinder Chadha urges 'rigorous intervention' to help female filmmakers

Gurinder Chadha attends the premiere of Viceroy's House at the Curzon Mayfair Cinema, London
Gurinder Chadha attends the premiere of Viceroy's House at the Curzon Mayfair Cinema, London

The lack of support and recognition for female filmmakers will not improve without "rigorous intervention", the writer/director of Bend It Like Beckham has said.

Gurinder Chadha, who also made Bride & Prejudice and Angus, Thongs And Perfect Snogging, said the situation has not changed in the decades since she made her feature film debut.

She told the Press Association: " I made my first feature 25 years ago, Bhaji On The Beach, for Film 4.

"I was the first Asian woman to make a feature film in Britain, 25 years later I'm still the only Asian woman. That is indicative of just how hard it is to get out there, particularly for women and particularly for people of colour.

"To tell our stories is a gargantuan task. In those 25 years I've managed to make seven, other people have made loads in that time.

"It's just when you want to show the world, from your perspective, stories about people that matter to you, it's always hard to go against the grain and that is really our problem."

Kathryn Bigelow is the only woman to date to win the best director Oscar for The Hurt Locker in 2009, and no black director has ever won the prize.

The first time a non-white filmmaker took the prize was when Ang Lee was honoured for Brokeback Mountain in 2005. He also won again for Life Of Pi in 2012.

Chadha added: " When people see women directors, stories from a women's perspective or from people of colour, people have to shift into their headspace and a lot of people aren't used to doing that because the whole world is geared towards the way blokes think, so I think that unless we have a really rigorous intervention, I really can't see things changing."

Chadha, who grew up in London, said she is committed to telling stories from a British Asian perspective, including her new film Viceroy's House, about the partition of India.

She said: "Part of the success of making this film is to shine a light on a period of our shared history as Britain, India and Pakistan, that nobody knows about.

"The partition of India left 14 million people refugees overnight, a million people died and this was all in the last days of the British Raj, so it's amazing to me p eople don't know anything about it.

"I wanted the film to be accessible to young people particularly, people like my children and their friends, so they understand what our collective history is."

She continued: " I grew up in London and as a girl I didn't have an ancestral homeland and that was because my ancestral homeland, which was the foothills of the Himalayas, a part of Punjab, had become a new country, Pakistan, after the partition of India in 1947."

Chadha eventually travelled to Pakistan for an episode of BBC programme Who Do You Think You Are? and said the warm reception she received there made her realise she wanted to tell the story of how the partition affected people like her family.

Viceroy's House is released in UK cinemas today.

Press Association

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