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Locarno 2023

Industry Report: Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

The Locarno Film Festival’s acting awards will now be gender neutral


The festival is following the example of the Berlinale and San Sebastián which made the same decision and obliterated the binary distinction between its acting prizes

The Locarno Film Festival’s acting awards will now be gender neutral
Locarno's Piazza Grande during a previous edition of the festival (© Locarno Film Festival)

In keeping with the current and much-welcomed sensitivity to matters of gender and inclusivity, the Locarno Film Festival has decided that, from its 2023 edition, its acting awards will no longer be based on gender, i.e. Best Male or Female Performance. The Swiss festival isn’t the first to introduce such a change, but it is one of the first in the world to take the entire gender spectrum into account. It’s an attitude which is in keeping with the Locarno-based festival’s stated desire to become increasingly inclusive and open. “The Locarno Film Festival is a point of encounter which derives its strength from the valorisation of minority voices”, the festival clarified in a statement.

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Like the Berlinale and San Sebastián, which had already made the same decision, the Locarno Film Festival won’t be altering the number of prizes it hands out. At the close of its 76th edition, unfolding 2 - 12 August 2023, the festival will still award two (gender neutral) Pardi trophies for best acting performance in the International Competition and just as many in the Cineasti del Presente Competition. Male cisgender actors are undeniably in the majority within the film landscape (and the likelihood of them winning an award is, therefore, equally higher), but the festival’s openness to all gender identities is nonetheless a clear signal that it is definitely working towards greater openness and inclusivity, guaranteeing all actors, regardless of their gender identity, a chance at competing for these awards.

The Locarno Film Festival’s Artistic Director Giona A Nazzaro explains: “We’re convinced that our decision will help us to enhance talent and creation even further, above and beyond categories and labels which are now obsolete. The world is no longer travelling along a binary path…”.

The festival has proved its commitment to inclusivity and gender parity in recent years. In 2018, for example, it signed up to the Programming Pledge for Parity and Inclusion in Cinema (the second festival in the world to do so, after Cannes, and the first in Switzerland), which confirms an increasingly urgent need for transparency, dialogue and sharing in the audiovisual industry.

In its 2021 annual report, the Locarno Film Festival set itself clear objectives vis-à-vis gender parity and a culture of inclusivity, not just in relation to the film selection presented each year, but also via “a zero-tolerance policy towards all forms of violence, including verbal and/or physical abuse and sexual harassment, and also foreseeing education and training sessions for all staff members”.

Clearly, the complex matter of gender parity, above and beyond binarism, won’t be resolved with this single initiative. But each step forwards, whether small or large, represents a small victory in the journey towards a more inclusive and fairer (audiovisual) world.

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(Translated from Italian)

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