AN annual celebration of female filmmakers begins on a Hebridean island today in a bid to open up more opportunities for women in film.

The Change Film Festival is taking place on Tiree in the Inner Hebrides and was founded with the mission of supporting women across the screen industries. This year marks the fourth time the event will run.

From today until Friday, a development lab will bring together experienced practitioners and industry experts who will discuss new ways to promote and inspire women in the film industry.

And from Friday until Sunday, the festival will open its doors to public audiences with a packed programme of new and classic films, all of which have been directed by women.

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Speaking to The National, the festival’s director and Tiree resident Jen Skinner said: “I’ve worked in film exhibition for around 20 years and the festival really came out of some conversations I had with colleagues a few years ago when I was at an industry event.

“It was round about the time the MeToo movement started getting a lot of attention and I just thought we could do something. I’d been working at what was then the National Media Museum and I knew there were a lot of case studies about people promoting female film directors.

“Loads of people said they would come and that they were all dead keen to see Tiree because of the location so from that idea the development lab was born. We’ll have filmmakers coming, as well as people involved in distribution and production."

Although Skinner believes there have been improvements made and that more opportunities are available for women in the industry, she says there is still work to be done.

She added: “Having all these women in one room allows us to think about how we can support each other. Everybody is squeezed right now and we’ll be looking at the impact of the pandemic in terms of funding women in film. It’s all well and good having this dream scenario where there are opportunities for everyone but we have to make sure all this is practical as well.”

Part of the event will be a celebration of the links between Finnish and Hebridean cultures.

One of the films being screened is Tove, the story of the woman who created the Moomins, a beloved series of books and comic strips in Finland. The film’s screenwriter, Eeva Putro, will also be running a masterclass in writing films.

Skinner said: “We want this to be a celebration and we’ll be able to see Finland and more of our European colleagues on screen. There will also be some brilliant 16mm film from the Finnish archives.

“I would also say we have a lot of content that relates to the sea because it’s amazing to come out of the cinema and be right next to the beach.”

Whilst there isn’t a specific theme underlying each film being shown at the festival, Skinner says that they do have a lot of documentaries.

This includes Journey To The Isles: Marjory Kennedy-Fraser – a series of silent films shot by a legendary Hebridean song collector which will be accompanied by a live music performance. Another Scottish film which viewers can take in is Lizzie MacKenzie’s award-winning documentary The Hermit of Treig, which the filmmaker herself will introduce.

The Scottish links don’t end there as the development lab will also host some Gaelic medium units which will explore the representation of the language on screen.

The public festival is set to take place across various venues on the island, including in the Isle of Tiree Distillery.

As well as the coaching and development of female filmmakers, Skinner says there is a swim programmed every morning and a beach walk where “people can get outside and have a chat about film”.

She added: “I think there’s something important about Tiree because it gives people time away from everything, to connect with each other and reflect.

“If we just had this in a cinema somewhere we might not get the same space.

“I’m really looking forward to just sharing energy and films together."