Female movie directors are under-represented in the industry because they are struggling to gain the trust of men at the top, according to the first black female director to open to London Film Festival.

Amma Asante said that women were being held back because of “misguided distrust” in their ability to make box office hits.

Speaking after an all-star panel discussion about sexism in film at Empire Live, the screenwriter and director said: “It’s a trust issue in terms of the powers that be and whether or not they believe that these movies can sell, will sell, in terms of the female narrative and how much they trust women behind the camera when it comes to directing.

“Even when we are able, or allowed, to make movies we are making certain types of movies.”

Amma Asante (Matt Crossick / PA )

The Bafta Award winner said that women particularly fall short in big blockbuster films because “there’s money to be supposedly lost or earned”.

She added: “It comes down to who they feel safe about in terms of flying the plane.

“We know that it’s a misguided distrust in many ways because we know that women directed movies don’t necessarily make less money than your average movie that’s directed by a man – but for some reason there’s that fear and that I think is something that has to be dealt with.”

The former child star of Grange Hill also criticised the classification of female-led films as “feminist’.

She said: “If a film genuinely is feminist there’s nothing wrong with a film being called that, but I don’t think we can carry all films under the same umbrella simply because they have a female in a strong lead that’s three dimensional and multifaceted.

“I don’t think that alone makes a movie feminist.”

But Amma – whose latest film A United Kingdom will open the London Film Festival – was optimistic that things were gradually changing within the industry, saying: “I think we’re turning a corner, but it’s a big one and we’re not round it yet.”

A United Kingdom – which stars David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike – will open the London Film Festival on October 5.