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Movies that Matter 2022

Industry Report: Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

“That’s the main issue for us: access,” say female panellists at Movies that Matter

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During this year’s Take on Women in Film panel, female filmmakers discussed their projects and the challenges they encountered, and expressed solidarity with Ukraine

“That’s the main issue for us: access,” say female panellists at Movies that Matter
Margje de Koning, Sahra Mani and Lidjia Zelovic during the panel

It was hard to avoid the topic of war at this year’s Take on Women in Film panel, organised in collaboration with Creative Europe Desk NL and Vrouwen in Beeld. Moderated by Margje de Koning, artistic director of Movies That Matter, the two-hour-long conversation tackled many difficult subjects, but the ongoing invasion of Ukraine was clearly on everyone’s minds. 

“We all know what is happening there. [Which is why] I thought this is the time to talk about the female voice that’s under pressure due to war and censorship,” said de Koning.

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Her panellists included Sahra Mani, an Afghan filmmaker who fled Kabul last September, Lidjia Zelovic, who grew up in Sarajevo and the team behind Ukrainian-Swiss documentary Peace for Nina: Zhana Maksymeno, Lyuba Knorzl and Dea Gjinovic, joining online. The project recently won the 2022 FIFDH Impact Days Award.

“We seem to ignore that the line between good and bad is very thin. It can grow hard and thick, but for the longest time before that it’s rather flexible and fluid. What we, the filmmakers, can do for you now, is reminding you that a long-term solution to any problem lies in understanding the complexity of it,” said a visibly moved Zelovic. Already behind My Own Private War, she is currently developing Home Abroad.

Mani, who was “born into a war” and grew up as a refugee, completed A Thousand Girls Like Me in 2018, about the first woman in Afghanistan to bring incest case to trial. Her new film, Kabul Melody, is now in post-production. While still able to talk about Afghanistan from afar, she opened up about the challenges faced by female filmmakers in her country right now. 

“Men can go out and continue shooting. But women are not allowed to go out alone, or travel, without a male companion,” she said. She also pointed out that, despite limitations, being a female filmmaker sometimes allows her to get closer to her protagonists, who are scared and afraid that no one will listen to their stories. 

The same could be said about Peace for Nina, showing a mother grieving her son, a Ukrainian soldier murdered in 2015. 

“Her story is so archetypical. It’s mostly men who are fighting and women are losing their children, trying to survive and build a new life after this,” said Zhana Maksymeno.  

“Ukrainian female filmmakers are very active, but it usually doesn’t matter which gender we are in this situation. It’s important to be a community and during the war, we understand how important we are to each other.” 

But as her protagonist is hoping to get her son’s death recognised for what it is, meaning a war crime, the team also decided to work on an impact campaign. “Our protagonist gathered evidence, hoping the crime would be prosecuted. Now, so many war crimes are being committed every day,” added co-producer Dea Gjinovic. “But, as my colleague has said, impunity kills and these patterns keep happening. We are trying to make people understand what is a war crime and how it’s being investigated.” 

Sahra Mani noted that she doesn’t believe in gender in cinema: “A female filmmaker could make a good film about men and a man could make a good film about women. Like Roman Polański’s Rosemary’s Baby. He made as good a film about pregnancy as any woman would. But there is a question of access,” she said. 

“In countries like mine, we grow up on the female side, boys on the male side. We know our communities better and we are supposed to introduce them to each other. In our regions, we have to invest in female artists in order to give a voice to their own marginalised communities. That’s the main issue for us: access.”

The Movies That Matter Festival wrapped in The Hague, with Writing with Fire by Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh, about female journalists in India, granted the Grand Jury Documentary Award (see the news).

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