Cinema, diversity and minorities: An international perspective
by Giampietro Balia
- CANNES 2016: The CNC organised a discussion on how to incorporate minorities into the film industry more effectively
The first country to really acknowledge that it had an issue with the fair representation of its diverse ethnic groups was the USA. From there, the discussion on how to reorganise and adapt the governmental and cultural bodies of acountry to its ever-changing ethnic composition quickly spread to each and every nation in Europe, where, due to a complex and tormented history that still makes headlines today, it became an issue that demands a solution.
Alexandre Michelin, president of the Images of Diversity Commission of the CNC/CGET, and the moderator of the discussion, remembered how the riots that took place in Paris in 2005 forced President Chirac to acknowledge and admit the inequalities within French society and to reassure his country: “Whatever our origins, we are all the children of the Republic, and we can all expect the same rights.” The same rights, maybe, but what about the representation of the identity that each ethnic group holds?
Moira Griffin, senior diversity manager at the Sundance Institute, started the process of renovation from within the institute itself. It is important to empower minorities so that they can take full control of the way their stories are told, and to allow them behind the camera. After all, where are all the people of colour, the Hispanics orthe women when it comes to sales, distribution or producing? Jasmin McSweeney, head of marketing for the New Zealand Film Commission, is facing a similar issue, but on a smaller scale. The commission launched an annual scholarship programme for women, hoping to increase their presence in the film industry, particularly in key creative roles.
Katriel Schory, executive director of the Israel Film Fund, probably understands the issue of diversity in cinema better than anyone else. He works with a population made up of Israelis, Palestinians, Russians, Ethiopians and Bedouins, comprising both secular and orthodox filmmakers, and he has to deal with the limitations imposed by the Rabbis and an unrealistic request: each ethnic group would like to have a budget according to the proportion of their community in the population.
Dealing with the issue of diversity in cinema means sponsoring tutoring programmes because minorities do not usually have access to master classes, and it shows in the quality of their projects. But it also means investing in subtitling to take the films to other countries and to isolated communities, diversifying the film commissions, the festival programmers and the people behind the camera – but, most importantly, it is about getting to know your neighbour.