The BFI has announced details of its season of films that will flip the switch on a century of the male gaze and find space for women’s own lust and sexual expression in film.
Showing screenings of films which explore the complicated relationship between fantasy, feminism, and desire, Thirst: Female Desire on Screen, is a season of films running at BFI Southbank from April 1-30.
The season takes its name from a buzzword used to describe feelings of desperate desire and coincides with the publishing of a new book of essays She Found It at the Movies – Women Writers on Sex, Desire and Cinema, edited by film and culture writer, Christina Newland, who has also programmed the season.
Thirst screenings will include In the Cut and Instinct and tales of teen sexual awakening like Diary of a Teenage Girl.
Also screening are queer love stories like Bound and Pariah as well as mainstream films starring male pin-ups and matinee idols like Dirty Dancing, and Magic Mike XXL.
“Movies have long influenced the way we think about sex,” said Christina Newland.
“For women, those formative crushes often give us room to think about our more unspoken desires or preferences in a safe environment, communing with the fiction playing out on screen.
“For some women, including me, it’s a rare comfortable space to explore a relationship with desire.
“Films are a dream space, allowing room for elaborate sexual fantasia neither as blunt nor as frowned upon as pornography.
“It’s the reason why fan fiction exists, why teen pinups and matinee idols are reliable bellwethers for every generation’s adolescence.
“From Rudolph Valentino to Marilyn Monroe to Chris Hemsworth, they’ve been with us for a century.”
Thirst starts with a season introduction and book launch, celebrating the release of Newland’s She Found It at the Movies.
The launch will welcome a selection of the book’s contributors to the stage to discuss key themes and films featured within the season, asking what it means to be a thirsty cinema-going woman.
BFI Southbank’s regular Hot Take series returns with the theme Is There Such a Thing as Ethical Thirst? in which guests speakers and the audience will debate what it means to desire a problematic man of the silver screen.
In contrast, the BFI Quiz: Thirst! on April 24 will lighten the mood with a quiz, testing how well teams know their matinee idols and dreamboats, heartthrobs and head-turners.