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Berlinale Bloggers reply
Strong women - a "different" Berlinale?

Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche is Jury President of the Berlinale. | Photo (Detail): © Fred Meylan

The press has already reported that this year's Berlinale is a "festival of women". Has this year's pronounced female perspective already led to changes before or behind the scenes? 


Philipp Bühler Foto: © Privat Philipp Bühler - Germany: Seven out of sixteen competition films were directed by a woman, with a woman in a leading position in almost half of all 400 films. That says nothing about quality. Nora Fingscheidt's Systemsprenger was great, Isabel Coixet's Elisa y Marcela about a lesbian love relationship in 1900 was awful kitsch. Nevertheless, the current policy is of course correct. Cinema is about visibility, and festivals have an important role to play here.

Sarah Ward Photo: © Private Sarah Ward - Australia: Berlinale’s high-profile efforts to champion women must represent the start of an ongoing quest. Indeed, while it’s fantastic to see such attention afforded Charlotte Rampling (via the honorary Golden Bear), Juliette Binoche (as the competition jury president) and Lone Scherfig (as the director of this year’s opening night film), perhaps more valuable is the championing of women who aren’t already successes in the industry. Programming can make an enormous difference — and while more than a third of this year’s competition titles were directed by female filmmakers, that figure needs to increase.

Egor Moskvitin Photo: © Private Egor Moskvitin - Russia: I don't believe in the existence of "men's films" and "women's films" - fortunately we live in a world where Kathryn Bigelow could shoot Zero Dark Thirty  and Pedro Almodóvar All About My Mother. I like what was recently heard at the closing ceremony of the Sundance Film Festival: "Male dramaturgy is similar to the male orgasm: it consists of opening, development and culmination. In a dramaturgy one climax (the word climax stands for the female orgasm and also the dramaturgical climax of a story) after the other - into infinity". By the way, it might be interesting to note that in the new Russian film world female directors are much more active than their male counterparts. In 2014, for example, about 70 % of the films at our major independent film festival were shot by women. But the pre-selection jury of the international festival prefers to invite men from Russia - with rare exceptions such as directors Natalya Merkulova (The Man Who Surprised Everyone) and Natalya Meshchaninova (Core of the World). I hope that one day this injustice will also be remedied.


Camila Gonzatto Foto: © Privat Camila Gonzatto - Brazil: There is still a long way to go before there is real gender justice in the film industry, but with this movement a gradual increase of women in technical functions such as production, script, camera direction, sound and editing can be observed, some of which are historically male-dominated. There has also been an increase in female protagonists with less stereotypical roles.

Joseph Walsh Foto: © Privat Joseph Walsh - United Kingdom: This year’s festival can boast that it hosted more female filmmakers than any other top tier festival. The stats are yet to be released showing the gender split of journalists attending the festival but judging by most screenings the festival is still predominately populated by middle-aged white males. This is a problem much broader than the Berlinale. It does present an opportunity for Berlin to lead the way. Initiatives and programmes encouraging female filmmakers, critics and journalists have to be a primary focus on Chatrian when he takes over the festival in 2020, as well as making sure that quality female voices are sought out for the program so that the festival maintains its position as a world-leading film festival. But gender is just one issue. There are others that deserve as much attention namely race and class. These issues must also be at the forefront of Chatrian's  mind in his new position. We have to remember, this isn’t about statistics, it’s about reflecting the reality of the world around us.


Berlinale Blogger Alva Gehrmann Photo (Detail): Einar Aslaksen Alva Gehrmann - Norway: Her self-confidence and her critical approach to male dominance in films does still unsettle some people. At the press conference for Elisa & Marcela, which is based on a true love story of two women, and in which the men are not glorious heroes, as one journalist noted, Spanish director Isabel Coixet reassured him that she likes men in general - and referred to her partner seated in the audience.

Berlinale Blogger Gerasimos Bekas Photo (Detail): Vangelis Patsialos Gerasimos Bekas - Greece: 
Not really. On the one hand, women's films get more attention, especially because it's finally a negative when they're absent. On the other hand, the Berlinale films are also permeated by decidedly male fantasies of violence against women. At the press conferences, women are rarely more than a decorative accessory. Patriarchy is tenacious. It will be a while before anything really changes.


Berlinale Blogger Noha Abdelrassoul Photo (Detail): Private Noha Abdelrassoul - Egypt: 
The film Flesh Out for example has a clear message. Women shouldn’t be adjusting their bodies according to what men and society expects from them.


Berlinale blogger Jutta Brendemühl Photo (Detail): © Goethe-Institut Jutta Brendemühl - Canada: I saw good films by women, like the Austrian competition title The Ground Beneath Her Feet by Marie Kreutzer; and disappointing ones, like Scherfig’s opening night film The Kindness of Strangers. I saw good films by men, like Canada’s Ghost Town Anthology by Denis Côté; and disappointing ones, like Edward Berger’s All My Loving. Strong storytelling, humanity, and humour aren’t gender-exclusive, but what is crucial is that female filmmakers are present and prominent at festivals -- and allowed to fail or succeed as much as their male colleagues. I overheard a (male) British critic summarize his recent interview experience as “The female filmmakers don’t bring that ego, it’s refreshing.” So perhaps we see a change in overall film culture before we notice on-screen shifts.

Berlinale Blogger Andrea D'Addio Photo: © Private Andrea D'Addio - Italy: As for the films themselves, this year I have not been able to observe any alternative perspective on the role of women. But it's good to see that women are taking on increasingly prominent positions in the film industry.

Man Jung Ma © Private Man Jung Ma - Taiwan: Women in this year's Berlinale, can be said to be a strong year. Juliette Binoche, who served as the jury president, and seven films directed by female directors were selected into the competition, setting the record for the history at Berlinale. Dieter Kosslick also signed a “5050 x 2020”-contract, promising the gender equality of the film industry management in the future. We can see different issues on women in the film, not only the female directors have female consciousness, but also the male directors focus on story about women, sparking more diversities for the films.

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