The Venice Film Festival announced the lineup for its 2018 edition and once again it is years behind in terms of representing women directors. Just eight films of the 64 screening in the fest’s major categories (Competition, Out of Competition, and Orizzonti) are directed or co-directed by women. Eight out of 64. That’s 13 percent.
Only only one of those films is screening in Competition: “Babadook” helmer Jennifer Kent’s second feature, “The Nightingale.” Set in 19th-century Tasmania, the revenge drama centers on a young Irish convict hellbent on finding the British officer who terrorized her family. Along the way she teams up with an Aboriginal tracker who is coping with his own trauma.
Two women-directed films were selected to screen Out of Competition, which features 24 films overall: Valeria Bruni Tedeschi’s “Les Estivants,” a drama about a tense family vacation, and the Francesca Mannocchi-co-directed documentary “Isis, Tomorrow. The Lost Souls Of Mosul.”
Of 19 films screening in the Orizzonti category, five come from women directors. Among them is Mary Harron’s “Charlie Says,” which follows three young women from the Manson family as they begin to accept the horror of their crimes while they’re incarcerated.
Addressing the Venice Film Festival’s major gender gap, fest director Alberto Barbera defended the curation process, including its lack of quotas for female filmmakers. “We don’t look at film saying ‘who made this?’ We look at the film. It’s form of maximum respect where best films win,” he said. “If we start viewing with quotes or percentages in mind, I think the first to be hurt will be women filmmakers. They should be judged like everyone.”
First, if Barbera and his fellow fest officials truly believed in the current system, then they probably wouldn’t have publicized Venice Days 2018’s 50/50 gender split.
Second, it’s obvious that gender equality is just not something Venice Film Fest ever wants to address — but they simply don’t have a choice this year with #MeToo and #TimesUp dominating the conversation. If this festival truly cared about what and what does not hurt women filmmakers, they would sign the 50/50 parity pledge like Cannes. That pledge was created to push people in the right direction; to be transparent; to figure out why women aren’t receiving the same opportunities.
Third, the pledge would address the fest’s excuse that women just aren’t submitting films at the same rate as men. (Festival prez Paolo Baratta said only 21 percent of this years submissions were women-directed.) The parity pledge would gather stats and ensure transparency of submissions and curation. It would provide a solution to the issues Baratta brought up during the fest’s recent press conference: “The problem exists but where does it exist?” he asked. “We need to make sure that women have the tools and opportunity to make films. This number reveals that there is a void there. We need more data and to know where the void exists in the development of artists.”
The folks behind the Venice Film Festival don’t seem to understand this, but the fight for equal rights is not going away. This push for parity will continue to gain momentum as women are continually marginalized. Venice — and other fests that refuse to acknowledge their blind spots — will keep being held accountable.
Venice Film Festival will run August 29 – September 8. Below are all the women-directed films screening in the Venezia 75 Competition, Out of Competition, and Orizzonti sections. Check out the fest’s website for the full lineup.
Venezia 75 Competition
Director Jennifer Kent
Out of Competition
Director Valeria Bruni Tedeschi
ISIS, TOMORROW. THE LOST SOULS OF MOSUL
Director Francesca Mannocchi, Alessio Romenzi
Director Flavia Castro
Director Mary Harron
YOM ADAATOU ZOULI (THE DAY I LOST MY SHADOW)
Director Soudade Kaadan
Director Sarah Marx
TCHELOVEK KOTORIJ UDIVIL VSEH (THE MAN WHO SURPRISED EVERYONE)
Director Natasha Merkulova, Aleksey Chupov
Portions of this post were originally tweeted by Melissa Silverstein. Follow her @melsil.