Cannes 2021 - Marché du Film
Industry Report: Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
Fighting colonial patterns and valuing new talents in the age of streaming were the hot topics of impACT’s first panel
CANNES 2021: The talk took place at the Marché du Film’s Main Stage Lerins and saw the participation of three emerging women filmmakers along with veteran producer Ted Hope
On 8 July, a panel entitled “From Hidden Talent to Global Sensation: How to Support Rising Talent on an International Scale” took place at the Marché’s Main Stage Lerins. The talk was the first organised by impACT, a brand-new programme backed by Microsoft which aims to create awareness on diversity, inclusion, representation, sustainability, and responsible and ethical data in the film industry. The purpose of this debate, moderated by EWA’s Strategy Manager Tamara Tatishvili, was to identify the most effective ways to boost and empower up-and-coming, diverse talent in the competitive international arena.
To start, Georgian filmmaker Dea Kulumbegashvili (Beginning [+see also:
interview: Dea Kulumbegashvili
film profile]) spoke about her early career steps in the Caucasian country, the challenges of studying in the US and repatriating to create “tales set in Georgia” to give minorities a voice. Despite the lack of adequate support in developing her work, Kulumbegashvili ultimately managed to find some help through dedicated labs. The funding provided by the Hubert Bals Fund in particular was the most useful, as it gave the writer-director “the freedom to travel anywhere, be on location, meet people and write”.
Next, the floor was given to independent multi-platform artist Rand Abou Fakher (who attended the panel digitally). Fakher explained that when she pitches an idea, people evaluating her project tend to think about her primarily as a Syrian, and then look at the story content. Here, the main problem obviously lies in being “marketed as part of a specific group,” as Tatishvili pointed out. Ethiopian-Canadian producer Tamara Dawit (also attending remotely) said that, from her perspective, in many cases “training programmes keep on adopting the same colonial patterns, as most of the decision-making and administration is being managed by North Americans.” Tatishvili then asked the producer whether decision-makers are gradually opening up and willing to change things in the industry. Dawit replied that some are ready and eager to face these discussions, “which aren’t easy” as they address established internal practices and decisions. “For example, Europeans get very nervous when we speak about data collection, but [it’s important to ask] who was attending your festival, your lab or a certain film school. It doesn’t mean you need to publish that information – though it should be – but it should at least be addressed internally” to help diverse voices and guide decision-making, she concluded.
Among other questions, Tatishvili asked veteran producer Ted Hope his take on the industry’s most recent shifts. In this respect, Hope explained that we are witnessing a change from what was a business based on a single title (in other words, “making a profit out of your movie”), to “an industry dominated by global streamers.” “But what’s the shift for the artist? The business of global streaming is [based on] bringing new customers in. They have the data and they can no longer think they know better than the people who are engaged in the film,” he added. Interestingly, he said that while the number of distinct voices is the same every year – for example, “directors having their first feature presented at Cannes” – in parallel, the number of filmmakers who do good (if not excellent) work is increasing, and most of the future efforts should be done on “valuing that talent too.”
A final Q&A session brought the talk to a close. From the audience, someone asked whether African filmmakers should create their own production standards or still abide to the international ones influenced by the West. Dawit said that this is not always necessary as, for example, in Ethiopia private equities backing domestic productions are proving successful, and that there are other ways to finance films without adapting Western standards. Meanwhile, Abou Fakher shared another challenge that needs to be addressed. She said that if she wants her film to succeed internationally, she still needs “Western recognition,” even when applying for funding in Arabic-speaking countries.
Before the final greetings, Hope explained how the core of the whole issue entirely revolves around the difference between trust and control and the eternal conflict between businessmen and artists. “If we trust people who want to make good works, that change is going to happen,” he concluded.
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