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Sarajevo 2021 - CineLink Industry Days

Industry Report: Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Sarajevo talks quotas vs. reality in women's position in the industry


Aida Begić, Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović, Bianca Oana, Agustina Chiarino and Amra Bakšić Čamo discussed the most important aspects of the current situation

Sarajevo talks quotas vs. reality in women's position in the industry
(clockwise): Amra Bakšić Čamo, Agustina Chiarino, Aida Begić, Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović and Bianca Oana during the online talk

The CineLink Talk entitled "What Women Want: quotas and reality" took place on Monday, during the 27th Sarajevo Film Festival, with speakers including Bosnian director Aida Begić, Croatian filmmaker Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović, Romanian producer Bianca Oana and Uruguayan producer Agustina Chiarino, and a moderation by Bosnian producer Amra Bakšić Čamo.

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Chiarino recollected how at the beginning of her career she was working predominantly on films directed by men, but that this has shifted in the last ten years. "I am now producing about ten different things, and I think 80% of them are directed by women. But it's not a conscious choice, I only realised that this is the kind of sensibility and stories that I am looking for now and that I think the world needs to see," she said.

It also took Bakšić Čamo and Begić, who have been working together for 20 years, some time to comprehend their position as women in the industry. "I always knew I had the position of a woman in the industry since I was studying, not because I was thinking about it consciously, but because how men were treating me, patronising me and telling me what to do," Begić recalled. "When I started to look for production and crew for my diploma film, I went to a few production companies, all ran by men. I didn't feel comfortable there, but when I met Amra, it was a turning point in my career: now I had someone who would listen to me and take me seriously."

For Oana, there is a strength in numbers. "For Ivana Mladenović's first feature documentary Turn off the Lights [+see also:
film profile
, in 2010 we went to an exclusively men-run production company and we had a lot of problems. But we realised already that the fact there were two of us women, plus the editor Ana Branea, made things easier. I think this presence is crucial, it in itself changes the atmosphere on the set," she said.

Alamat Kusijanović, whose Murina [+see also:
film review
interview: Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović
interview: Gracija Filipovic
film profile
is screening in Sarajevo's competition after winning the Caméra d'Or at Cannes, recently filmed in Mexico City with an exclusively female crew, which was part of the project and not due to quotas. She was six months pregnant at the time.

"Up until then I never thought I had any problems because of being a woman," she said. "But at this shoot I realised I felt an incredible lightness: I didn't have to spend my energy on anything except on what I was doing as a filmmaker. It was about mood and energy. I didn't have to feel I had to prove myself, unlike on any other project. "

But she believes quotas work both for and against women: "I think quotas don't work if it's only to satisfy some abject figures, but where they are absolutely necessary is the financing. Still in 2019, 84% of public money in Europe was assigned to men. We need to be equally financed, in the sense of the value of the money. And when it comes to festivals, we need quotas in juries and selection committees."

All speakers agreed that the existing narrative in press and social media of women being awarded at festivals because it's a trend is harmful. "I think quotas have two sides: a political aspect, which is needed, but the other is how it reflects on the filmmaker," said Begić. "We've come to a point where we as women directors are trying to do certain projects that are going to conform to those expectations regarding content and characters, and in this sense I feel trapped."

Another fact is that there are more women who graduate from film schools but fewer of them get to make films. A common excuse is that women have to balance their personal lives and careers, but on Murina, Kusijanović worked with French DoP Hélène Louvart who has five children and has shot 125 films. "It's obviously possible and it's the society's and financing bodies' attitude that needs to change," she said.

But the speakers also agreed that things indeed have changed to a certain extent: the atmosphere in society is different, and it is so on film sets as well. "What we changed in Bosnia is the way of making films - we killed this old, Balkan, macho approach to the crew, and now we have a new sensibility and a feminine point of view," said Begić.

Bakšić Čamo then referred to a question from the audience about the other end of the chain: distribution. "We need women in positions to decide which films are bought and shown in cinemas and through other channels, and we need financial incentives for this as well," she said.

"We need to continue making our films, be financed to make more of them, have visibility and transparency, and the volume of the films will speak for itself of their quality," concluded Alamat Kusijanović.

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