Venice Film Festival Under Fire For Lack Of Women Directors

Venice Film Festival
Ernesto S. Ruscio / Getty Images

According to Variety, the Venice Film Festival is being criticized by the European Women’s Audiovisual Network and other women’s organizations for leaving out women directors from the festival’s competition section. The EWA Network composed an open letter to the festival, requesting that they sign a gender-parity pledge like other film festivals have in the past, such as the Cannes and Locarnos film fests.

Referring to the fact that only one film directed by a woman was included in the competition titles at Venice for the second year in a row, the letter stated, “We have seen this film before.” This year, the lone competition title directed by a woman was Jennifer Kent’s “The Nightingale.”

The EWA also called out the Venice Film Festival’s artistic chief Alberto Barbera for claiming that he would quit his post if the festival was suddenly forced to “impose quotas or gender-equality needs,” despite having recently vowed to increase female representation. In the letter, the EWA noted, “When Alberto Barbera threatens to quit, he is perpetuating the notion that selecting films by female filmmakers involves lowering standards.”

“Sorry,” the letter continued, “but we don’t buy this anymore. We know it has been proven that instead of preventing meritocracy, targets and quotas help to promote it by widening the pool of candidates.”

Calling attention to the small percentage of films directed by women that are submitted to the festival to begin with, the letter went on to say, “When Paolo Baratta,” the president of Venice’s parent organization, “or Alberto Barbera say that there are not enough women’s films and that this is a reflection of the broader film industry, they are also saying that this is not Venice’s problem – regardless of the fact that, like most European film festivals, their team is not trained in gender bias or in unconscious bias, for that matter.”

Venice Film Festival
  Ernesto S. Ruscio / Getty Images

“So with a shrug of a shoulder,” the letter noted, “Venice, and all the festivals showing a lack of gender balance or regard for equality, can avoid taking a closer look at their selection processes and committees.”

The gender-parity pledge that the EWA wants the festival and its parent organization, Venice Biennale, to sign calls for equal representation of gender both in front of and behind the camera and insists that festivals release statistics of the number of films submitted by female directors and proceed to make an effort to diversify the film industry.

The Venice Film Festival still has yet to respond to the EWA Network’s open letter.