The Glasgow Film Festival is to tackle the debate over gender equality in the movie industry by devoting an entire day to female actors, writers and directors - as part of a line-up featuring films starring Tilda Swinton, Kelly Macdonald, Juliette Binoche, Catherine Deneuve, Anna Friel, Celia Imrie, Rosamund Pike and Imogen Poots.
Organisers say the festival, which is being staged for the 16th time between 26 February and 8 March, will “boast more films made by women than ever before,” but will also focus heavily on films with women in the lead roles.
It will be bookended for the first time by films by female directors - Proxima, French filmmaker Alice Winocour’s drama about an astronaut - played by Eva Green - torn between her professional ambitions and the pressures of motherhood, the festival’s curtain-raiser, and Coky Giedroyc’s adaptation of Caitlin Moran’s best-selling novel How to Build a Girl, which will close the event.
The full final day of the festival will be devoted to female talent on and off screen to coincide with International Women’s Day.
The programme includes the Scottish premiere of Our Ladies, the big-screen adaptation of The Sopranos, Alan Warner’s novel about a group of Highland schoolgirls running wild in Edinburgh, the unveiling of award-winning director Mark Cousins' 14-hour documentary on cinema’s forgotten female filmmakers, narrated by Swinton and Jane Fonda, Pike’s portrayal of the Polish scientist Marie Curie in the film Radioactive, and Macdonald’s starring role in Outback-set romantic drama Dirt Music.
The festival will provide the launchpad for Perfect 10, the feature film debut of Scottish writer-director Eva Riley, which explores the events which unfold when a teenage gymnast’s world is turned upside down with the arrival of the half-brother she never knew she had.
Deneuve and Binoche will star alongside each other as a mother and daughter at loggerheads in The Truth, while Friel will star alongside Scottish actor Dougray Scott as the parents of London city trader David Tait in Sulphur and White, which will recall how his professional success marked a traumatic past. Eternal Beauty will see Sally Hawkins play a who woman whose life spirals into chaos after she is left at the altar.
Allison Gardner, co-director of the festival, insisted the was not jumping on a “bandwagon” with its programme this year, but was instead reflecting a long-standing commitment to diversity.
She said: “This is very much in line with our ethos. We always want a broad range of films in the festival, which is a very broad church. We try very hard to look for films that are made by women, but they only make 10 per cent of feature films.
“Since our closing day is International Women’s Day we thought it was an opportunity to make that day all about women, so every film in the line-up is either written or directed by a woman, or features women in lead roles.
“We wanted to shine a line in a more interesting and thoughtful way rather than doing a 50-50 programme. It’s great as an aspiration, but I don’t like box ticking. I think we always have to programme without prejudice. All the films we have programmed are there on merit - they’re not there by tokenism.
“The one thing I didn’t want was to make a female strand of the festival. I don’t think the vast majority of audiences care about that. They want to see good films - it doesn’t matter to them if it is directed by a man or a woman. Our job is to find those films and put them in front of an audience.
“We really try to represent our audience and encourage an audience from a vast range of backgrounds. When you come to see this festival you see a very diverse group of people, much more than other festivals, which can be quite elitist and male-dominated.”
Special guests at this year’s festival are expected to include the legendary Scottish actor Bill Paterson, whose recent roles include Fleabag and Guilt. The Comfort and Joy star will be teaming up with Imrie in the romantic comedy Love Sarah, which has been billed as “Notting Hill meets the Great British Bake-Off."
Other red carpet guests include 1917 star George Mackay, who will be starring alongside Russell Crowe in an adaptation of Peter Carey’s novel about 19th century Australian bushranger Ned Kelly and his gang of outlaws.
Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe and Trainspotting favourite Ewen Bremner also have new films in the line-up, starring respectively as a South African activist attempting a daring jailbreak in Escape From Pretoria and German sausage shop owner in Gutterbee.
The event includes a masterclass with Oscar-winning British special effects wizard Chris Corbould, whose credits include Inception, Skyfall,
The Dark Knight Rises and the recent Star Wars films, a screening of cult horror film Final Destination in a secret location and a celebration of 1980s classic The Breakfast Club at a student union building.
The former Arches nightclub and arts venue into a pop-up “neo-Glasgow” cinema for a series of special screenings of science fiction events.
Tickets for festival events go on sale to members on 30 January and to the general public on 3 February.