As the film industry wrestles with gender disparity issues, film festivals have not been immune. At the Cannes Film Festival in May, programmers signed a pledge to increase gender equality in the programming by 20/20, and the Locarno Film Festival followed this summer. Now, the Venice Film Festival is under scrutiny, as the programmers faced immediate backlash for selecting only one female director in its 2018 competition.
As the festival kicked off its 75th edition today, jury president Guillermo del Toro was asked about the shortcoming in this year’s program. “I think that the goal has to be clear, and has to remain 50/50 by 2020,” he said. “If it’s 50/50 by 2019, better. It’s a real problem we have in the culture in general.” However, he said that the issue wouldn’t be solved only by the numbers game. “It’s not a matter of establishing a quota,” he said. “It’s extremely important to call it out, and to question it and to name it, and to make it known. I think that is necessary, because for many decades, if not centuries, it has not been called. It’s not a controversy, it’s a real problem, and it needs to be solved, in every one of our pertinent departments, with strength and resolve.”
He referred to his jury, which includes Taika Waitit, Naomi Watts, Polish director Malgorzata Szumowska, and French actress-director Nicole Garcia. “The composition of the jury is five women and four men, and it is about bringing that in a significant way when the conversation is at a significant stage, as it is right now,” del Toro said. “This is not a gesture, it’s a need.”
The filmmaker also noted the push for disparity in his own career. “I’m producing five movies right now, three of them for female directors, two of them first time directors,” he said. “You have to make the effort.” Del Toro, who is constantly attached to a range of projects, did not specify which of his upcoming producing credits were directed by women. Production for “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark,” which he’s producing for director André Ovredal, is currently underway in Toronto.
At a press conference this summer, Venice festival director Alberto Barbera was asked about the lack of female directors, to which he said, “We don’t look at film saying, ‘Who made this?’ We look at the film. It’s form of maximum respect where best films win.”
—Reporting by Ben Croll