Saturday was an explosive and empowering day at the Toronto Film Festival, as hundreds of men and women alike gathered to protest the under-representation of women in film. The “Share Her Journey Rally” was more than just people protesting, it was also about education, and the event drew multiple acclaimed speakers.
Geena Davis was one, speaking as both an actress in the industry and as the founder of the Geena Davis Institute, a research group that explores gender representation in media. Her speech focused on the unconscious gender bias geared at young viewers.
Variety reported that the film industry is dominated by white men, and that women and women of color have the hardest time breaking through. This is supported by statistical facts, such as of the 1,100 top films from 2007 to 2017, only 4 percent of these films directors were female. And in breaking down that 4 percent, it showed that only four of the top films during this time were created by black female filmmakers, two by Asian female filmmakers, and one was from a Latina director.
“Yes, I’m a woman director, and I want more of us out there,” said Nandita Das, a filmmaker, “we have lots of stories to tell. Please just hear them.”
“Every day I dream of a world in which the necessity to talk about this is absent and where my fellow women artists can speak about their art rather than campaign to do it,” said Amma Asante, a black film director and screenwriter. She is best known for her projects Belle, which was based on the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle, who was the illegitimate mixed-race girl who was raised by aristocratic relatives in late 18th-century London, and A United Kingdom, a film based on the interracial romance between Seretse Khama, the first president of Botswana, and his wife, Ruth Williams Khama.
The crowds gathered carried signs that read “men of quality don’t fear equality” and wore buttons that said, “TIFF I Stand With Women.” The protest was about more than just making it past the hiring process. Creating gender parity, equal representation, allowing people of color to have a voice and a platform, and keeping environments safe from predators within the entire industry has become the true focus.
“Unless we improve the conditions where our bodies are respected in the workplace, I don’t see how we’ll have our minds respected and achieve leadership,” said Mia Kirshner, an actress who spoke at the event.