The fourth Birds Eye View Film Festival kicks off in London tonight with a special focus on comedy. Maureen Lipman will open the festival at the BFI by presenting a range of short films and a performance by Imogen Heap to accompany silent comedy.

BEV is a celebaration of women film-makers from across the globe, showcasing new features, documentaries and shorts. Screenings are held at London’s BFI Southbank and ICA and the festival runs through March 14, when it will close with a screening of Hotel Very Welcome and an awards party.

Features include Mika Ninagawa’s Sakuran, Tata Amaral’s Antonia, Cecilia Miniucchi’s Expired, Lucia Puenzo’s XXY, Joanna Hogg’s Unrelated, Catherine Breillat’s The Last Mistress, and Nadine Labaki’s Cannes hit Caramel.

Documentaries include Kim Longinotto’s Hold Me Tight, Let Me Go; Jennifer Venditti’s Billy The Kid; Meena Nanji’s View From A Grain Of Sand; Sandrine Bonnaire’s Her Name Is Sabine; and Ibtisam Mara’ana Khitam ‘s Three Times Divorced.

Shorts include Mira Nair’s Migration, Leigh Hodgkinson’s Flighty, Pinny Grylls’ Peter & Ben, Laurence Coriat’s New Love, and Dyana Gaye’s Ousmane.

The BFI Southbank is presenting the related programmes Screwball Women: The Golden Age Of Hollywood Comediennes, including works such as The Women and She Done Him Wrong; as well as Clowning Glories: Women In Film Comedy Before 1930.

Workshops and panels will be devoted to special effects, screenwriting for video games, pitching, mothers working in the industry, and fashion films.

Brick Lane’s Sarah Gavron will give a directing masterclass, Jennifer Fox will discuss her epic project Flying: Confessions Of A Free Woman.

Other special events include a comedy film gala with Jo Brand, a music video showcase with Miranda Sawyer, a mobile phone film competition, and a bring-a-baby screening.

Jurors for various sections include Britdoc’s Beadie Fenzi, Verve Pictures’ Julia Short, Channel 4’s Sarah Mulvey, novelist Monica Ali, playwright Sharman MacDonald, BFI’s Jane Giles, and actress Harriet Walter.

BEV launched its 2008 programmes in February at the Glasgow Film Festival and after its London event will tour to cities including Manchester and Newcastle.

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