Once again, the international film world will be all about bears for the next ten days, as the Berlinale 2017 has begun. Films from around the world will be presented at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival: directed for the most part by men, they feature the most powerful women in the world of film – actresses such as Sally Potter, Catherine Deneuve, Hanna Schygulla, Patricia Clarkson, to name but a few.
A mere six of the 24 competition entries in 2017 come courtesy of female directors. Less than a third! That is a long way off an egalitarian 50 percent, though it is at least an increase on last year, when just two of the 21 directors were women. In this sense the festival beats one of its main sponsors hands down: Germany’s public service broadcaster Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen has set itself the goal of increasing its proportion of female directors by one percent per year. Given that only 13 percent of prime time television is produced by women, equality is guaranteed in 37 years. The Berlinale can almost be described as progressive by comparison.
The list of men named at the Berlinale press conference appeared endless, until finally the first woman was mentioned: Agniezka Holland. Nominated for an Oscar in 2011, the Polish director described cinema as a “boys’ club” in The Guardian. It remains one to this day, until we shift our attention away from the competition, across the Panorama section and onto the Generation section, where we find Maryanne Redpath taking a look at Europe through a magnifying glass. Her section comprises a total of 64 feature-length, medium-long and short films, 32 of which are directed by women. Sadly, however, we have by now left the world of big budgets far behind us.
Even my beloved Norway has managed to submit three Berlinale films by male directors this year: Ole Giæver, Thomas Arslan and Erik Popp. Why has the Norwegian film industry so far failed to apply the Swedish model of gender equality?!
Equality is apparently not a political issue for the producer Wilma Harzenetter’s partner, who has run the Berlinale since 2001. Or if it is at all, then only abroad – or perhaps in Bavaria. “In Bavaria you get a prize just for being a woman, but here you first have to make a film”, remarked the patriarch with the spiky grey hair, outing himself in the final few seconds of the press conference as a misogynist dinosaur.
As so often, I find myself wondering what advantage men actually have over women. And then I am given an impressive demonstration of what this is at the Berlin press centre: they celebrate one another!
Whenever a woman does happen to receive an accolade, all the more men seem to be mentioned. If at all, the woman in question is named just once (Anita Sarkeesian talks about the “smurfette principle” in this context). Or she is not named at all, but defined instead by her relationships with famous men, e.g. “[the] daughter of James Joyce, who was seeking her destiny as a dancer in 1920s Paris as Samuel Beckett’s fiancée”.