Greater transparency in the process may help address the gender parity issue at Venice and other film festivals

Posted on August 1, 2019


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The issue of gender parity has come up again after the Venice Film Festival announced its line-up, with only two Competition titles from women filmmakers: Haifaa Al-Mansour’s The Candidate and Shannon Murphy’s Babyteeth. (If you want to make a grim joke, you could say it’s a full 100 percent increase from last year, which saw only Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale competing for the Golden Lion.) I think everyone agrees that one would like to see as many female filmmakers as male in every given scenario, whether at the Oscars or at these speciality film festivals. I think we also agree that tokenism has no place in art, that a film cannot be included simply because it has been directed by someone from the minority, i.e. anyone who is not a white male. At least from the viewpoint of whoever is doing the selection, the film has to be good, it has to be worthy and not just representational.

Before the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, artistic director  Thierry Frémaux has this to say when asked about the domination of male filmmakers: “A differentiation should be made between female filmmakers and Time’s Up. The question of a quota in no case concerns the artistic selection of a festival. Films are chosen for their quality.” The same year, Jury President Cate Blanchett was asked how the jury would sit in judgement of the new Godard film [The Image Book]. “With an open mind,” she said. “By trying to remove names and pasts and just dealing with the present.” The same thing could be said about any director. Remove the name (and thus, the gender). Just see the film for what it is.

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