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Karlovy Vary 2024 - KVIFF Eastern Promises

Industry Report: Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

At Karlovy Vary, European Film Academy's Fatih Abay looks at the future of diversity and inclusion in the CEE countries


The recent rise of the far right concerns the whole continent and the region, risking to limit the industry's efforts and sensitivity towards the creation of a fairer sector

At Karlovy Vary, European Film Academy's Fatih Abay looks at the future of diversity and inclusion in the CEE countries
l-r: Diana Lodderhose and Fatih Abay during the panel

On 2 July, the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival's new elegant industry hub, the Imperial Spa, hosted the International Industry Insight session. One of the panels held in the afternoon, titled "Celebrating Diversity: The Relevance of Diversity and Inclusion within Central Eastern European Cinema," was moderated by Deadline journalist Diana Lodderhose and saw the participation of Fatih Abay, Diversity & Inclusion Officer at the European Film Academy.

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Abay landed his European Film Academy post after working in academia and other research fields related to the topics of diversity and inclusion for 15 years. 

First, he touched on the body's continuous efforts to ensure the largest degree of diversity, including the academy's restructuring of its board and the institutions of transnational linguistic seats. In detail, the seat representing members from transnational populations will host Sámi filmmakers in 2024-2025, followed by Romani filmmakers for 2026-2027.

He pointed out how the topics of diversity and inclusion are larger societal problems. In this sense, the European film industry can make a positive contribution and set a positive example. That being said, our society is still heavily anchored to century-old customs and biases, including the controversial concept of race, the influence of the Anglosphere and the use of the English language as a lingua franca.

While Western Europe seems more receptive in terms of understanding diversity, "many producers in the region struggle to tick the boxes, or struggle to explain why if they tick them." Therefore, diversity practices seem overall "more organic" in the Western part of the continent. Abay also mentioned how national governments - in both Western and CEE countries - that aren't sensitive to the topic are negatively affecting its perception and urgency as well as the implementation of favourable policies. In this respect, he also touched on the recent controversy surrounding the Slovak Film Fund and the growing concerns related to the country's media and artistic independence (read the article). 

For Abay, one of the possible keys to creating awareness is to follow a "glocalised approach" when it comes to illustrating and dealing with these topics in each territory, as well as to favour enriching, more positive representation of minorities - in other words, seeing them enjoying life and not just going through pain and suffering.

Finally, the European Film Academy rep called for wider efforts to pursue diversity and inclusion goals, which requires "structural changes in big institutions" including professional associations, funds and festivals. "These changes shouldn't be just imposed but backed by knowledge production and training [sessions] held on a very frequent basis," he said, adding how the British Film Institute, for example, organises these on a monthly basis. "These require more budget, of course, but the big institutions we're talking about do have these."

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