Thursday, 23 May 2013

"Women Who Call The Shots"

Where are all the women in film? They aren’t shortlisted at Cannes, which is going on as we write: there is only one film directed by a woman on the list of twenty in competition - Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, with her film Un Château En Italie (A Castle in Italy). And the inclusion of a single female director is an improvement on last year’s selection's gender bias, when no female directors were nominated at all. Furthermore, in the sixty-five years of the Cannes Festival, only one woman has ever won the coveted Palme D’Or award – Jane Campion, for her 1993 film The Piano. Women don’t seem to win Academy Awards for Best Director either. Only four women have ever been nominated and only one has ever won - Kathryn Bigelow, in 2009, with The Hurt Locker. It seems that all the women are in front of – not behind – the camera. And that’s something that Open City Docs Fest wants to change.

Women are rarely nominated for the top prizes, and so they rarely win. It seems like women aren’t even being allowed the chance to compete to prove their worth. Here at Open City Docs Fest, films directed by women make up just under half of the programme and what's more, several female directors’ films are contenders for awards judged by our Grand Jury, demonstrating that we know that women’s films are worthy of accolades.

Here’s just one example from each awards category:

  • Grand Jury Award - Tinatin Gurchiani (The Machine That Makes Everything Disappear)
  • Emerging International Filmmaker Award - Petra Costa (Elena) BUY TICKETS HERE
  • Emerging UK Filmmaker Award - Eva Weber (Black Out) BUY TICKETS HERE

The exclusion of female directors from the top spots means a lack of female role models in the public eye to which women can relate, which in turn means less inspiration for women to start directing films themselves. The film industry being so male-dominated and rife with reports of sexism and discrimination, it’s no wonder women are being intimidated from picking up the megaphone and clapperboard. We’ve recognised the need to allow female directors a chance to share their knowledge with and inspire upcoming filmmakers, and so we are privileged to have the award-winning directors Molly Dineen and Katerina Cizek hosting workshops and teaching master classes.

For Molly's master class Portraits of Britain BUY TICKETS HERE.
For Katerina's class Digital Documentary in the 21st Century BUY TICKETS HERE.

From the audience’s perspective, without female directors we would miss out on the vast array of creative talents that women have to offer. Not only would we miss out on explorations of alternative subject matter from the traditional fare of action movies and rom-coms but also we’ll miss the unique perspectives and angles that female directors can provide. Discouraging people with a passion for directing means we could be discouraging the next Maya Deren, Agnes Varda, Lucy Walker or Nadine Labaki. With a programme including over thirty female directors’ films featuring on a variety of strands, Open City Docs Fest provides evidence that first, female directors are incredibly talented (which goes without saying) and second, they can tackle any subject and aren’t limited to traditionally feminine film genres.

Taking just one example from each strand:

We also have to remember that the film industry is notorious for its sexist film stereotypes and the objectification of women – both of which could be tackled by having more female directors. Film is also an excellent way of visually displaying the struggles that women face worldwide every day. Films such as Solar Mamas by Mona Eldaiet and Jehane Noujaim, and Salma by Kim Longinotto show a new perspective on issues such as women’s rights to education and economic empowerment. Longinotto, Eldaiet and Noujaim all work to show women’s strength in the face of adversity, putting paid to tired film clichés such as ‘the damsel in distress’.

For tickets to Solar Mamas click HERE
For tickets to Salma click HERE

Open City Docs Fest is trying to redress the gender inequality in the film industry and give female directors the recognition and airtime they deserve. We’d love for you to come and join us in celebrating the women who call the shots!

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