Sweden's Göteborg Festival Achieves 50/50 Gender Parity

Psychosis in Stockholm
Courtesy of the Göteborg Film Festival

“It wasn't difficult to find enough good films by women directors,” says artistic director Jonas Holmberg. “You just have to make an effort.”

Sweden's Göteborg Film Festival becomes the first A-list festival to achieve complete gender parity with its 2020 lineup, which is made up of an equal number of movies directed by men and women.

The fest was inspired to hit the target by the FiftyFifty by 2020 campaign launched by the Swedish Film Institute at the Cannes Film Festival in 2016, in which the institute pledged that, by this year, state film financing would be evenly split between pics directed by woman and those helmed by men.

Sweden has hit that target, and at Göteborg, which is set to run Jan. 24-Feb. 3, the Swedish Institute will present its findings on the impact of its parity policy.

The Swedish campaign also inspired a French group, 5050 by 2020, which called on film festivals to sign a pledge committing the organizations to the ultimate goal of gender parity and, significantly, to collecting data noting the genders of films selected by the fests. Most of the world's major film festivals, including Cannes, Sundance, Toronto, Berlin and even Venice, have signed the 5050 by 2020 pledge.

For Göteborg, finding a sufficient number of high-quality films directed by women “wasn't difficult,” Jonas Holmberg, the fest's artistic director, tells The Hollywood Reporter. “At the start of the 5050 by 2020 campaign, there was a lot of talk among festival programmers about how difficult it would be to find these films and to achieve a gender balanced lineup. We wanted to kick off this year with a lineup that shows it is very possible and, actually, not that hard at all, to achieve gender balance.”

The goal of an international film festival, Holmberg argues, should not be to just mirror the output of the film industry, “which is clearly not 50/50 male/female,” but to offer “new, different and challenging perspectives.” Citing statistics from the U.S. film industry, he notes that some 96 percent of American directors are male. “That affects what kinds of stories are told, what kind of perspectives are dominant. It even affects what we think is a quality film, what we think is a great auteur movie.” The film industry has a “gender conception of quality,” Holmberg says. “The model for a great film auteur is someone like [Austrian director] Michael Haneke. Now I love Haneke, but the more you look like him and the more your films look like his, the closer they are to what the industry thinks is a great auteur movie.”

Psychosis in Stockholm, the feature debut for Swedish documentary director Maria Bäck (I Remember When I Die), will open the 2020 Göteborg Film Festival on Jan. 25 and kick off the event's main Nordic Competition section. U.K. filmmaker Sarah Gavron (Rocks), Germany's Katrin Gebbe (Pelican Blood), Switzerland's Delphine Lehericey (Beyond the Horizon) and Hungarian helmer Ágnes Kocsis (Eden) are just some of the female filmmakers represented in Göteborg's international competition section this year.

“We don't just have gender diversity, but geographical diversity as well, which was just as important for us,” says Holmberg. “Some 89 countries are represented across the entire selection. I see diversity in every sense, in terms of location, in terms of perspective, in terms of who the filmmaker is, as a measure of quality. Inequality in the film industry is a quality problem. You just can't afford to not include the full range of filmmakers out there.”

Some would argue there has been little real progress in the push for greater diversity in the film industry. The BAFTA film nominations, announced Tuesday, did not include a single woman among the directing noms and there were no non-white faces among the list of nominated actors.

As part of this year's lineup, Göteborg will include a focus on Brazilian cinema, with 15 feature and documentary titles, including Cannes sensations Bacurau from directors Juliano Dornelles and Kleber Mendonça Filho and Karim Aïnouz's The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao.

Stellan Skarsgård, fresh off his Golden Globe win for Chernobyl, will receive this year's Nordic Honorary Dragon Award for lifetime achievement. The 68-year-old Scandinavian acting icon will present the Nordic premiere of Oscar hopeful The Painted Bird, in which he co-stars, and will host a master class while at Göteborg.