The open exhibition space at the BFI Southbank is currently devoted to the British documentary filmmaker, screenwriter and feminist, Jill Craigie.

One of the most photographed directors of her time, she was dubbed ‘Britain’s first woman filmmaker’ by the press, while she herself championed community voices and performers. Some of her most notable films looked at how cities could be rebuilt after WW2, focusing very much on the human side of the reconstruction plans.

Her only feature film, Blue Scar is featured in the exhibition, with stills from the filming. The film was set in the Welsh coal mining community and was suggested to her by the National Coal Board, although they had no involvement in making it. Unlike many films of the time, the film also exposed the women involved in the mining community who had often been overlooked in films that focused on the men in the mines.

Her early films demonstrate Craigie’s interest in socialist and feminist politics, but her career as a film-maker has been somewhat eclipsed by her marriage to the Labour Party leader Michael Foot.

So this is an exhibition that gives people a chance to revisit the work of a pioneering filmmaker, not someone who was “just” the wife of a politician. As a display, it’s a mix of photos from the film sets, her notes on how to direct a film, and newspaper clippings about the film director who is, shock, horror, a woman!

Earlier this year, a documentary about her life was released. Independent Miss Craigie was directed by Lizzie Thynne, and is one element in a larger research project designed to bring Craigie to wider scholarly and public attention

The mezzanine exhibitions at the BFI Southbank tend to run until they decide to change them, so I can’t give an end date.


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