Women Over 50 Film Festival (WOFFF) submissions work on a very simple principle: if a short film has a woman over 50 either at its centre on screen or as part of the creative team, then the film’s eligible. There’s no upper or lower age limit for filmmakers and WOFFF isn’t open just to women – everyone’s welcome.
Two years ago, writer and producer Nuala O’Sullivan noticed a lack of good roles for older women in films screening at short film festivals, and noticed too how few older women there were behind the camera. She decided to do something practical and positive about this lack of representation, and so WOFFF was born.
One of WOFFF’s earliest champions was the Duke of York’s Picturehouse. Nuala, WOFFF founder and director, says: “The Duke’s sponsorship and the practical support and encouragement from Felicity Beckett and Jacob Engelberg have been key in putting WOFFF on the short film festival map.”
In 2016, in only its second year, WOFFF received over 100 submissions from filmmakers in 15 countries. WOFFF screened 44 shorts and five of them were awarded winners’ laurels – Best Drama, Best Animation, Best Experimental, CMS Best Documentary and Emerald Life Audience Choice Award.
Filmmaker Oonagh Kearney, winner of the WOFFF 2016 Best Experimental film, says: “In 2015 WOFFF burst onto the scene with verve, edge, passion and style. Led by women with a dynamic vision, WOFFF celebrates a breadth of perspectives by and about older women and in doing so supports the sharing of vital cinematic representations with wider UK film culture. I was very proud for The Wake to screen at WOFFF, and we were thrilled to win an award. It’s brilliant that WOFFF is sharing our work with audiences in Picturehouse cinemas. Thank you!”
And winner of the WOFFF 2016 Best Drama film, Mareike Engelhardt, was delighted to “discover films at WOFFF that I couldn’t see anywhere else. The energy of this festival is unique and the care with which the organisers chose and presented the films was impressive.”
Prizes for the 2016 winners included £50 cash, free Picturehouse tickets, a bottle of Mother’s Ruin gin and the chance to have their film screened at Duke of York’s Picturehouse, Brighton and Picturehouse Central, London.
Winning filmmaker Louise Wilde says: “WOFFF has been a fantastic opportunity to showcase some brilliant stories from voices that might be less prominent. It’s been an honour to take part and I’m thrilled that My Friend Marjorie is screening at Picturehouse.”
Nuala says: “We’re incredibly excited that the five 2016 award-winning WOFFF films are screening as part of the Picturehouse Kickin’ Ass: Middle-Aged Women On Screen series. Both celebrate older women in front of and behind the camera, so the Kickin’ Ass features and the WOFFF shorts really are a match made in heaven!”
The winning WOFFF shorts are:
CMS WOFFF 2016 Best Documentary: Belle and Emma by Rebecca Johanson. The judges said: “This sweet, charming, low-budget short won us over with its simple portrayal of a loving and mutually caring relationship between grandmother and granddaughter. It had an ethereal otherworldliness about it with an intriguing and unexpected ending. A lovely piece of storytelling in just four minutes.”
WOFFF 2016 Best Animation: My Friend Marjorie by Louise Wilde. The judges commented: “This is an animation which vividly captures the poignant story and personality of Marjorie Curtis. A bittersweet animated portrait that is very effectively and imaginatively crafted.”
WOFFF 2016 Best Drama: The Other Place by Mareike Engelhardt. “This film is just magnificent,” said the judges. “Visceral and strange yet entirely accessible and watchable. It is intriguing from its first shot – nostalgic for a place never seen and one that may never be seen in this lifetime. It has what used to be called a ‘Continental’-film style. Its sombre lighting reflects the inner world of our protagonist.”
WOFFF 2016 Best Experimental film: The Wake by Oonagh Kearney. The judges said: “The body is used as a language of expression of the highest quality, and is beautifully embedded with ritual patterns of womanhood.” They praised this work as “a gem of a film that made us wonder about belonging, loss, motherhood, daughters, identity and memory.”
WOFFF 2016 Emerald Life Audience Choice Award: One Last Dance, a story of lost love and intimacy by Luke Losey. The director says of his film: “It’s about absence and loss. An older man is stuck in time, walking around the rim of his life, lost since his wife died. Like many men of his generation, his emotional life was defined and lived through the woman in his life, whose love and support he took for granted. These themes are particularly pertinent to growing older but they aren’t specific to any era or generation because so many men continue to rely on the women in their lives to face the emotional truths they aren’t prepared to.”
Submissions for WOFFF 2017 festival are open from 1 March. You can find out more here.