Toronto: Freida Pinto Urges Female Filmmakers to "Stop Talking and Start Doing"

Freida Pinto - Publicity - S 2016
Courtesy of Showtime

Freida Pinto - Publicity - S 2016

The 'Slumdog Millionaire' actress touted her We Do It Together initiative with Jessica Chastain, Juliette Binoche and Catherine Hardwicke to empower female directors.

Indian actress Freida Pinto, best known for her roles in Slumdog Millionaire and Rise of the Planet of the Apes, attended the Toronto International Film Festival on Saturday to voice her support for female filmmakers.

Speaking at the TIFF panel, titled Women at the Helm, she urged women in film to stop relying on studio heads to greenlight more work by female directors, and to bring about industry change on their own. "It's time to stop talking and to start doing something," said Pinto.

The actress touted her recently launched non-profit production company, We Do It Together, to get more women into film and TV in partnership with an advisory board that includes Jessica Chastain, Queen Latifah, Juliette Binoche, Catherine Hardwicke and Ziyi Zhang.

Pinto said the seeds of their female empowerment initiative sprang from personal experience, when she and City of God co-director Katia Lund tried to get a film project off the ground. "Every time we took it to a production house, to a potential investor or studio, they'd tear up and say it was such a beautiful story," she recalled.

But their pitch faced setbacks when it was revealed the main protagonist was a woman from Pakistan who spoke no English and wore a Burqa headdress. "And she's brown, so it kept going 10 steps backwards," Pinto recounted.

She insisted studio heads reacted emotionally to the film's script, but had fears over its execution, especially by Lund, a female director from Brazil. "We realized doors were closing far too easily for something that was really inspirational," said Pinto.

So she and her star-studded We Do It Together backers launched their venture to work with internationally acclaimed directors, actors and producers, whether men or women, to develop a slate of gender-driven films that spawned emerging voices within the industry.

Anna Serner, CEO of the Swedish Film Institute, agreed it was time to fight against preconceptions by studio heads that stop women advancing fast enough in the industry. "We have to always struggle to get under the layers of our starting points, which will always be quality equals men, not women," she said. "That's what I'm fighting for."

Carolle Brabant, director of Telefilm Canada, the Canadian government's film financier, also unveiled a new initiative to create a more diverse domestic portfolio of movies in Canada by 2020. "It's clear that we haven't done enough and we need to do more," she told the TIFF panel.