Berlin: Panel Debates the 'Most Powerful Tool' for Women Filmmakers in Achieving Gender Equality

7:21 PM PST 02/09/2014 by Nick Holdsworth
The Swedish Film Database/Johan Lundborg
"East, Sleep, Die" directed by Gabriela Pichler

A group of experts discusses ways to create a more level playing field in the film industry.

BERLIN – The importance of collecting statistics and publicizing gender inequality in the film industry is the key to creating a more level playing field for women filmmakers, a Berlinale fringe panel agreed Sunday.

The panel, "Good News From the Gender Equality Front?" -- organized by EWA, the European Women's Audiovisual Network and hosted by Berlin's Hungarian Cultural Center as part of its seventh annual Cinema Total series of events -- agreed that without facts and figures, arguments that talent is the reason why there are more men in the European film industry could not be challenged.

Anna Serner, head of the Swedish Film Institute, said the solid information was helping drive policies at the public film funding body that should mean, by next year, projects from women and men receive equal funding.

"We need knowledge to be aware; the most powerful tool we have is to count the numbers and communicate, because every time we could it is obvious there is not an equal [gender] balance," she said.

The institute had been encouraging women directors for several years and a string of awards at the "Swedish Oscars," the Guldbagges for films such as Gabriela Pichler's East, Sleep, Die, demonstrate the talent of women in the industry.

"The most important thing is that they tell stories we have not heard before from a perspective we have not seen," she added.  

Sanja Ravlic , president of the Gender Equality Study Group for European film promotion and funding body Eurimages, said that a "gender grid" in films that applied for cash is now being imposed along with established criteria used to gauge a project.

The gender balance of the creative team -- the writer, director and producer -- will now be taken into account, she said.

She noted that it is ironic that around three quarters of the 36 countries representative or Eurimages are women, but the organization is committed to achieving a 50/50 balance by the next funding cycle.

Simon Perry, president of European cinema organization ACE (Ateliers du Cinema Europeen) and moderator of the event -- which was attended by around 70 people, mostly women -- noted that there is a general perception that women directors are often able to make a first or second film but face a much harder challenge to develop their careers further than men at the same stage.

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