Diversity is now centre stage': Berlin film festival sets industry precedent

2020-02-24 | Since 1 Month

The cast of My Salinger Year on the red carpet in Berlin this week. Photograph: Omer Messinger/EPAThe Berlin film festival has achieved gender parity in some of its most senior positions a year after signing a pledge that commits film festivals to improve representation in relation to diversity.

The Berlin festival, which opened on Thursday, is one of the major events to sign up to 5050x2020, which requires organisations to release information about the gender and race of their directors, members of selection committees and executive boards, and to record similar data about the directors, casts and crews of submitted films.
The release of Berlin’s diversity data showed that its festival directorships were shared equally between men and women, and that its executive board was similarly balanced, but that the majority of films shown at the competition were still made by male directors.

At this year’s festival, 37.9% of films were directed by women, and six of the 18 films in competition were directed by women, which is down from seven last year. This follows Sundance in January, when the festival presented its most diverse lineup ever.

The Berlin data is released as the chair of Time’s Up UK called for more transparency on gender from film festivals and awards bodies. Dame Heather Rabbatts welcomed the progress at Berlin but recalled the dismay at last year’s Venice festival, where there were only two films in competition by female directors. “Progress is bound to be lumpy, it’s not going to be a wonderfully even curve on a graph that shows it’s all going in the same direction,” she said. “Venice was disappointing in that regard.”
“5050x2020 was designed to galvanise action. I didn’t think any of us would achieve gender parity across all of the festivals but there has been significant progress,” she added.

The pledge, which was signed by all major film festivals, including Cannes and Venice, has three main requirements. Participants must compile statistics about the gender and race of the directors for all the films submitted to selection, as well as, when applicable, of cast and crew. They must release information on the gender and race of members of selection committees, programmers and programming consultants, and of participants. And they must release data on the makeup of executive boards – while committing “to a schedule to achieve parity in these bodies”.

Berlin’s data is the first release by a big European festival, with the next two festivals the most important in the film calendar: Cannes in May and Venice in September. Both have served as the launchpad for Oscar-winners in recent years, and both have been criticised for their handling of diversity.

Rabbatts said the potential for progress was evidenced by Spike Lee’s appointment as the jury chair at Cannes this year, as well as the mass resignation of the César awards board after the director Roman Polanski received 12 nominations. “We’re seeing the repercussions of 5050 and Time’s Up playing out across festivals and awards,” she said. “The collective resignation at the Césars shows that transparency around voting and membership has become one of the main issues.”
Polly Kemp, actor and founder of the gender equality campaign group Era 50:50, said the focus on senior positions was crucial. “If you’ve got parity on your board, you get much more balanced programming,” she said. “I would never say you have to have 50/50 on screen, but you should be transparent as a festival.”

Rabbatts said the push for diversity needed to include awards bodies as well as festivals, and that the argument that a lack of diversity can stem from “industry-wide” issues was misleading. “The festivals are part of the industry,” she said. “You can’t opt out of your own responsibility.”

Rabbatts also dismissed the idea of introducing a women-only directing award at next year’s Baftas after the seventh consecutive year of all-male directing nominees. “That feels to me [as if] you are ghettoising women and people of colour,” she said of an idea that has also been suggested for non-white directors. “You’re saying that our films are somehow not considered to be within the main competition – that’s how it will feel and that’s how it will be translated.”

She said introducing quotas would also be misguided because people would feel they were there because of their identity rather than merit. Instead of quotas, said Rabbatts, there should be targets to provide a “sense of a journey” and a simple way to see whether progress had been made.

“Five years ago, nobody asked the question of diversity at Bafta, or if they did it was an adjunct to something,” she said. “Now it is centre stage. Once you open that box there’s no going back.”



Read Also


Comments

No comments

Add Comment




Person of the Year

Caricatore