Set in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the mid-1800s, this blackly comic horror follows Capt. John Boyd (Guy Pearce) a disgraced US Army captain sent to a remote outpost as punishment following a dishonourable incident in the Mexican-American war. When a grievously wounded stranger (Robert Carlyle) stumbles into the fort, he identifies himself as the last survivor of a group of settlers stranded by the snow in a mountain cave, who had turned to cannibalism.
Antonia Bird (1951-2013) was a British producer, writer and director. Bird began her career working at the Royal Court Theatre in London and then on television shows such as Casualty and EastEnders, an experience which allowed Bird to hone her craft and political but populist approach. Throughout the 1990s a series of trailblazing TV dramas foregrounded socialist politics and took a tough but empathetic approach to social issues, such as homelessness in Safe (1993), homosexuality and faith in Priest (1995) and sexual abuse in Care (2000). She briefly moved to Hollywood in the late 90s and was drafted in at the last minute to direct Ravenous (1999), making her mark on this broad and brilliant dark comedy horror.
Despite a prolific output and trailblazing career, upon her premature death in 2013 it looked as if Bird’s contribution would be largely forgotten. The combination of Bird’s gender and her socialist convictions marked her as an outsider to commissioners, and even during her lifetime Bird struggled to be recognised for her work and her influence – a story all too familiar when we examine the lives and careers of female filmmakers. However, thanks to the hard work of Bird’s friends and collaborators, the tide is turning for her reputation.
In 2016, a documentary about Bird’s life and a retrospective at the BFI Southbank attempted to bring Bird back to public recognition, prompting some much needed critical writing on Bird’s legacy. Her story is a fascinating example and a cautionary tale – acknowledging and supporting the work of women throughout the history of film is an ongoing process that requires work and attention.