This morning’s Berlinale Competition line-up announcement featured 33% films (six of 18) with women directors, including one project, DAU. Natasha, which is co-directed by a man and a woman (Ilya Khrzhanovskiy and Jekaterina Oertel).
That’s a drop on last year’s percentage of 41%, when seven of 17 pics selected were from female filmmakers (the figure is seven of 16, 44%, if you don’t count Zhang Yimou’s One Second, which was pulled before it screened).
Still, the Berlin fest continues to compare favorably to the other major European festivals. In 2019, Venice featured just two women directors of the 21 films in its Competition (less than 10%), while Cannes selected four of 21 (19%).
Of the six films by women filmmakers, four are world premieres, with Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow arriving following its Telluride debut last year, and Eliza Hittman’s Never Rarely Sometimes Always having played more recently in Sundance. Those are the only two films in the Competition that are not world premiering in Berlin, which could hint that the festival selection team didn’t have a wide array of features from recognized female directors to choose from.
“Six films made by filmmakers is not 50/50, but it’s a good path to reach 50/50,” commented Berlin’s new artistic director Carlo Chatrian at this morning’s presser. “The main important thing about 50/50 is to create awareness.”
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“We have some sections where the presence of women is higher,” he noted.
The festival’s Generation strands, its youth-focused program, selected 58% women directors across shorts and features. The European Film Market’s co-production selection also has a majority of women directors among its projects this year.
However, Chatrian also stressed that “the main criteria [for the selectors] is the artistic quality of the film” and added that “film is a collective process and not just the director”.
Berlin hasn’t released the numbers yet for how many of the film submissions it received were directed by women – that’s a telling statistic as it reveals what the team had to play with.
The festival did, however, commit last year to the 50/50 by 2020 gender parity pledge, which ensures that it will collect and publish transparent data on its selection process. The pledge does not consist of gender quotas, but does put a spotlight on ensuring that there is gender parity across the organization itself.
Venice and Cannes both signed the pledge back in 2018, and while their competition lineup numbers in 2019 weren’t overly impressive in terms of gender representation, they did both improve on the previous year. Only time will tell what kind of progress is made at those events in 2020.
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