NYFF’s Lineup Is Less Than 20% Female Directed, And We’re Not Happy About It

Cannes Women's March Cate Blanchett

As reported by the blog Women and Hollywood, and drawing information from The Hollywood Reporter, the lineup for NYFF has been released and only four, or 13% of the films, are directed by women. This is a step down from last year, where 32% of the films (eight in total) were women-helmed. This is a sad reminder of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s study that showed exactly how much we are failing women and other marginalized identities behind the camera, as well as in front of it.

This is not even the first time this year that studies have been released that talk about the lack of female filmmakers represented at film festivals. IndieWire released an article earlier this year on women being represented at indie film festivals, stating that on average 16 narrative films made by men are screened as compared to six by women; for documentaries, women fared a little better with the average is 13 to 8.

The article went on to talk about how women accounted for 29% of directors and other behind the camera positions in indie films screened at festivals between 2017-2018. That’s a disheartening number when we think about how many male filmmakers who get chance after chance while still not delivering excellent product. Women are, on the whole, being shut out of these festivals and therefore being deprived of more chances to get their work screened to the industry and possibly get wide distribution.

This is not to say that all the male filmmakers being screened at NYFF, or at any major or small film festival, are undeserving of their slot. We should still judge on quality of film. However, there have to be as many films that are made by women that also deserve a spot at major festivals. It’s telling that women-helmed films, which often feature more women in other off-camera roles, tend to be shut out of these festivals.

What needs to happen is more festivals need to have diversity initiatives to encourage, mentor, and screen films by female filmmakers. Festivals are a great way to get industry buzz, and without them female filmmakers will continue to struggle for funding and distribution while male filmmakers continue to climb higher and higher. Diversity initiatives such as the ones present at Sundance, or pledges such as the gender parity pledge signed at Cannes, will help continue to allow female filmmakers the chance to shine. Otherwise, we will continue to see a lack of diversity behind the scenes.

The filmmaking world needs to see real, lasting change, and the only way to do so is to encourage marginalized directors and allow their work to be seen by the world. How many talented filmmakers have had their visions stifled by lack of support or an inability to submit their films to festivals? By crafting diversity initiatives, we can allow more filmmakers to share their films and uplift their voices, which in turn will create a better and more inclusive Hollywood. It’s up to festivals to create these movements and to share their platforms. Hopefully, we’ll see a change soon; if not, we’ll keep demanding change until we see it.

(Source: Women and Hollywood; Image: Getty Images)

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