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Venice Film Festival Will Sign Gender Parity Protocol, But Will Not Pledge to Meet Filmmaker Quotas

The festival will join its European brethren and will sign a gender parity protocol recently embraced by Cannes, Locarno, and Sarajevo.

Naomi Watts, Malgorzata Szumowska, Trine Dyrholm. Jury members from centre left, Naomi Watts, Malgorzata Szumowska and Trine Dyrholm pose for photographers at the photo call for the Jury at the 75th edition of the Venice Film Festival in VeniceFilm Festival 2018 Jury Photo Call, Venice, Italy - 29 Aug 2018

Venice jury members Naomi Watts, Malgorzata Szumowska, and Trine Dyrholm

Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP/REX/Shutterstock

UPDATE (August 31, 2018): The Venice Film Festival has signed the 5050×2020 gender parity pledge. The festival has committed to releasing statistics on submission to the festival, will be transparent about the selection board’s gender make up, and will agree to try to reach gender parity on executive leadership boards as soon as possible.

The Venice Film Festival will join its European festival brethren and will sign a gender parity protocol recently embraced by Cannes, Locarno, and Sarajevo. Variety reports that the festival’s parent organization, the Venice Biennale, will sign the 5050×2020 pledge at a news conference today. As the outlet reports, “the protocol involves pledges to practices that Venice officials say are already in place at their event: issuing statistics on the number of films submitted; being transparent about the members of the selection and programming committees; and reaching an even gender ratio in the organization’s top management.”

At today’s news conference, the Biennale is expected to sign the protocol alongside Italian organizations Dissenso Comune and Women in Film, TV & Media Italia. Per Variety, “the agreement follows what the two organizations say have been friendly and constructive discussions that were protracted in part because the Biennale is a multidisciplinary organization extending to other arts beyond film, such as architecture and dance.” The pledge does not involve mandatory quotas when it comes to picking films, something that festival artistic director Alberto Barbera and Biennale chief Paolo Baratta have long argued against.

This year’s Venice Film Festival lineup has some world class auteurs on display — from Alfonso Cuaron to the Coen brothers — but this year’s lineup continues the fest’s recent trend of being decidedly male director-skewing. Among the 21 films serving as this year’s competition lineup, only one is directed by a woman: Jennifer Kent’s “The Nightingale,” the Australian filmmaker’s followup to her lauded “The Babadook.” Moreover, among the 60 films picked as part of the festival’s “Official Selection” (including competition, out of competition, and Orizzonti), just eight were directed by women. Other female filmmakers represented on the slate include Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Mary Harron, Sarah Marx, and Margherita Ferri.

In recent years, the annual festival has similarly fallen short when it comes to women-directed films, averaging just one in a field of 18 to 22 selections over the past six years. It wasn’t always this way: in 2012, 2011, 2009, the festival hosted four competition titles from women, but their representation has seriously dipped.

When the festival kicked off yesterday, 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 added 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.”

In May, Cannes Film Festival artistic director Thierry Fremaux signed a pledge vowing to increase transparency and promote gender parity at the film event. The pledge, dubbed the “Programming Pledge for Parity and Inclusion in Cinema Festivals,” was signed May 14 during an Cannes event hosted by 5050×2020, the French women’s group behind the red carpet protest for gender equality earlier in the festival. The Locarno Film Festival followed its lead and signed a similar pledge this summer, as did Sarajevo.

Other festivals have recently achieved gender parity among their submissions, including this year’s Hot Docs and the upcoming Camden International Film Festival. New York’s Tribeca Film Festival has moved closer to parity in recent years, as well, and last year’s lineup included 48 percent of films directed by women.

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