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IDFA’s “The Female Gaze” Investigates the Role of Women in Documentary

IDFA’s "The Female Gaze" Investigates the Role of Women in Documentary

Thankfully, this year, we’ll be able to cover some of this festival, including this specific event, which reads interesting. For those who will be attending the festival, consider adding this to your to-do list.

During the upcoming International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), there will be a themed program on the role of women in documentary called “The Female Gaze,” which will consist of a survey, a film screening series, and discussions with the directors present. 

15 leading international women directors, including Senegalese filmmaker Safi Faye, as well as others representing a variety of countries around the world, including Pirjo Honkasalo (Finland), Barbara Kopple (US), Kim Longinotto (UK), Rakhshan Bani-Etamad (Iran), Nishtha Jain (India) and others, have put together a program of old and new documentaries by themselves and other female directors, renowned and less well-known. 

In addition, IDFA will be investigating the share female directors have had of the festival’s own selections during the past ten years, and attention will be devoted to the question of how women are represented in documentaries and of whether a “female gaze” can be said to exist within the documentary genre. 

The event takes place  on Saturday, November 22, during the festival which runs from November 19 through 30. 

Details via press release below:

The Female Gaze at IDFA 

In recent decades, a great deal of research has been undertaken into how images of women are produced in the media. This research has focussed principally on the role of women in advertising, on television and in fiction films. This prompted IDFA to devote special attention this year to women in documentary.  The central question is whether women are (also) under-represented compared to men both in front of and behind the camera in the documentary. Does the glass ceiling exist in the documentary industry? How are women represented in documentaries, and does something like ‘the female gaze’ exist in documentaries? 

IDFA asked fifteen leading female directors  from different countries to present three documentaries: one directed by themselves, one directed by a woman who has inspired them, and one by an up-and-coming female talent. The documentaries selected were made by three generations of female directors. The directors who made a selection for IDFA and will be attending the festival are: Phie Ambo (Denmark); Rakhshan Bani-Etamad (Iran); Safi Faye (Senegal/France); Rachel Grady & Heidi Ewing (US); Chris Hegedus (US); Pirjo Honkasalo (Finland); Nishtha Jain (India); Barbara Kopple (US); Kim Longinotto (UK); Mercedes Moncada (Mexico); Ileana Stanculescu (Romania); Jessica Yu (US) and Jasmila Zbanic (Bosnia). 
Heddy Honigmann, who this year compiles her Top 10 for IDFA, has also been asked to select three films for The Female Gaze. 

A total of 28 documentaries will be screened: classics including Portrait of Jason (1967) by Shirley Clarke and The House is Black (1962) by Forough Farrokhzad as well as films by emerging talents such as How to Pick Berries (2010) by Elina Talvensaari and Waiting for August by Teodora Ana Mihai. The latest films from a number of directors will also be shown, such as Misconception by Jessica Yu; Love is All: 100 Years of Love & Courtship by Kim Longinotto and Good Things Await by Phie Ambo. 

After the screenings, the issues arising will be discussed in the various Q&As with the directors present: is there in fact a female gaze and to what extent has this gaze changed over the generations? Are films made by women different from those made by men, and are films made by women in the third world different from films made by women in the West? 

Alongside the film program and the discussions following the screenings, IDFA will also be looking at the share female directors have had of the festival’s own selection over the past ten years. On Saturday 22 November, IDFA will be organising a debate for the documentary industry, in which the question of whether this is an emancipated sector which employs as many women as men in creative, crucial decision-making roles will be raised.

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