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Venice 2021 - Venice Production Bridge

Industry Report: Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Gender equality and inclusivity take centre stage at this year’s Venice Production Bridge


VENICE 2021: The 12-month update on the current state of things demonstrated that some progress has been made, but there is still a long way to go to achieve true equality

Gender equality and inclusivity take centre stage at this year’s Venice Production Bridge
A moment during the seminar

On 7 September, Hotel Excelsior’s Spazio Incontri hosted a seminar dedicated to gender equality and inclusivity in the film industry, as part of this year’s Venice Production Bridge (2-7 September). The event was organised by the La Biennale di Venezia, Eurimages and Women in Film, Television and Media Italia (WIFTMI).

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The seminar was opened by La Biennale di Venezia’s President Roberto Cicutto, who highlighted that the seminar’s themes were more timely than ever, owing to the current human rights crisis taking place in Afghanistan. Next, Artistic Director Alberto Barbera admitted that this year’s edition did not make a big step forward in terms of the number of women directors presenting their films, but that the festival’s commitment to gender equality remains one of its utmost priorities. The floor was then given to Council of Europe Venice Office’s Director Luisella Pavan-Woolfe, who provided a brief overview of the consequences of the pandemic and pointed out that the Council of Europe’s objective to support gender equality is being pursued through a number of legislative provisions. She also mentioned the issue of representation, and the body’s commitment to fight stereotypes and sexism and to protect multiple identities, among other things. Italian Ministry of Culture’s Under Secretary of State Lucia Borgonzoni (who attended virtually) underlined that, besides implementing rewarding mechanisms, women should fight against their fear of “always proving their skills” in a male-dominated industry and of “facing criticism” for making, for example, non-committed films. She also argued that teaching children about great women of history is a necessary step to promote equality.

Later, La Biennale’s General Manager Andrea Del Mercato invited the next round of speakers to join. During her speech, La Biennale’s Deputy General Manager Debora Rossi showed that the organisation’s executive committee has already reached a 50/50 balance, and that in many other departments, women even reach roughly 70%, except for the technical roles which are still mostly covered by men. Despite having balanced juries and accreditation requests, Del Mercato highlighted that the problem of equality starts at the submissions level, which sees about a third of them directed by women. Eurimages’ deputy executive director Enrico Vannucci illustrated how, despite not achieving the goal of 50/50 by 2020, the trend is at least moving in the right direction. He showed that the percentage of women directors awarded by the body increased from 7% to 36% over the years 2012-2020 (from €1.5 to €7.9 million). Speaking about the next steps for the period 2021-2023, Vannucci said that the body aims at increasing aid intensity for female-led projects to close the funding gap, encouraging more female participation in both creative and technical roles and supporting initiatives aimed at upskilling women in the industry.

Iole Maria Giannattasio introduced Milan’s Università Cattolica professor Mariagrazia Fanchi, who presented the results of her recent research on gender equality. Her case study, based on the analysis of 1085 films and 13,094 professionals, demonstrates that male professionals in domestic productions and co-productions are predominant, both in creative and high-skilled technical roles, with the exceptions of costumer and make-up. In detail, the roles presenting the widest gender gap were music supervision, special effects and director of photography, where male presence surpasses 90%. Moreover, in broader terms, the gender gap widens as the length of the film increases.

Policy officer of Creative Europe – MEDIA Maria Silvia Gatta introduced Gaia Bussolati, VFX supervisor at EDI Effetti Digitali Italiani, who talked about her participation in CharactHeR, a project that aims at stimulating women’s participation in the many roles of the audiovisual industry, especially the ones traditionally occupied by men.

The session was followed by contributions from Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia’s President and former producer Marta Donzelli and Sahraa Karimi, director and former chairperson of Afghan Film. Donzelli touched upon the national film school’s efforts to reach equality in the broader context of the Italian film industry. Karimi spoke about the troubled state of her country, and how culture and cinema weren’t in the political agenda for the past twenty years: “They invested in everything but did not build a single cinema. […] I pushed the government to give money to develop new films for five years. We established the first national film festival and the first national film awards. We increased the production of fiction films, documentaries, shorts, animation and experimental films. We started to educate new generations to cinematic language. We favoured the participation of women in film, which was previously close to zero.” After all of these efforts, someone in her country called her “a prostitute that pursues Western agenda in Afghanistan.” “When we talk about these [European, Italian] numbers, I’m very jealous,” she said, concluding her speech with a call to female directors to make films and create artworks, despite all the challenges.

The event wrapped with closing notes from WIFTMI President Domizia De Rosa.

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