On the eve of the start of the 10th annual Women in the World Summit, Women in the World and IFC Center have announced the creation of 51Fest, a brand-new film festival dedicated to uplifting women artists, filmmakers, and creatives. The inaugural festival will take place from July 18 – 21 in New York City at the IFC Center and the SVA Theatre. A full line-up of film screenings and other events will be announced in June.
The festival takes its name from the fact that women make up 51% of the U.S. population — one that is not reflected in the vast majority of media. From 2007 to 2018, fewer than 5% of directors from the 1,200 top-grossing films were women. Thanks to mounting pressure from audiences and advocates within the industry, the number of top-grossing films with women protagonists jumped significantly in 2018.
A study by USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative found women were main characters or co-leads in 40 of the top 100 grossing movies of 2018 — the highest percentage of female driven films in 12 years and an increase in eight movies from the previous year. However, a different study found that the number of top-grossing films with women directors actually declined in 2018.
Many established film festivals are making moves toward gender parity by signing or planning to sign the 5050×2020 Pledge. The Cannes, Toronto, Venice, and Berlin film festivals have all signed onto the gender parity pledge in the last year. This year, the Tribeca Film Festival reached full gender parity across its three competition sections.
Founded in 2009 by journalist and media mogul Tina Brown, the Women in the World Summit aims to “amplify and celebrate women’s voices from around the globe by convening women activists, artists, CEOs, peacemakers, entrepreneurs, and dissidents to share their remarkable, often untold, stories.” In an official statement, Brown added, “Women make up more than half of our population, and 51Fest puts women where they belong: at the center of the story.”
Film industry veteran Anne Hubbell has been named Program Director; DOC NYC Executive Director Raphaela Neihausen will also serve as Executive Director of the new festival.
51Fest joins a growing slate of festivals similarly dedicated to women filmmakers, including the Bentonville Film Festival, established by the actress Geena Davis in 2015.