Berlin: How the Festival Is Focusing on the Fight for Gender Equality

Illustration By Wren McDonald

From an anti-harassment "safe space" policy to industry panels on the gender gap in filmmaking, the Berlinale is responding to the #MeToo era.

Berlin wears its politics on its sleeve. In 2002, his first year as Berlinale director, Dieter Kosslick made "Accept Diversity" the festival motto. "And we meant it," Kosslick tells THR. "Diversity of all sorts: all colors, all sexualities, all cultures."

This year, in the wake of Harvey Weinstein, #MeToo and Time's Up, Berlin is trying to live up to that pledge. The fight for equality, whether based on gender, race or sexuality, will be in focus at both the festival and Berlin's European Film Market (EFM).

At the festival, Berlin will introduce what it calls a "safe space policy" that will include coordinating a hotline for visitors to report cases of discrimination or harassment they experience or witness. Sundance took a similar tack this year, updating its code of conduct to try and prevent any inappropriate behavior and introducing a new 24-hour hotline to report offenses.

The policy's urgency was brought home by the recent case of German director Dieter Wedel. Several women have accused the famed film and TV helmer of abuse — ranging from harassment to assault — going back decades. Wedel denied the initial charges brought forth by three women but since has gone silent and has resigned from his job as artistic director of the Bad Hersfeld Theater Festival, citing health concerns resulting from excessive media attention on his case.

At the EFM, the focus will be on analyzing the problem of discrimination and presenting workable solutions for the industry. Vivian Yvonne Hunt of consulting firm McKinsey & Co. will present the latest finding of her study "Delivering Through Diversity," originally unveiled in late January at the Davos World Economic Forum in Switzerland. In a debate hosted by THR on Feb. 17, Hunt will break down her analysis of the diversity gap and what it means for the global film business.

At Berlin's Co-Production Market, the Austrian Film Institute will present a case study of its remarkably successful initiative to address the gender gap among film producers by boosting subsidy support for projects with higher female participation.

The Swedish Film Institute, a leader in the push for gender equality, will also present in Berlin the latest findings in its 50-50 initiative, which, in just three years, achieved gender parity in terms of film funding between men and women directors.

"We are a market — we are interested in the business, not the politics," says EFM director Matthijs Wouter Knol. "And when it comes to audiences, there are a lot of people out there, a lot of groups, who see themselves underrepresented in the content onscreen. What's changed is that these groups are becoming more outspoken and, most importantly, have shown they are willing to pay for more diverse content." 

This story first appeared in the Feb. 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.