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CANNES 2017 Industry

Gender equality in film under the spotlight at Cannes


- At the prestigious French festival, the Swedish Film Institute will organise a seminar on 20 May about how to push for more women in film to achieve higher quality

Gender equality in film under the spotlight at Cannes
Anna Serner, CEO of the Swedish Film Institute (© Marie-Therese Karlberg)

At the 2013 Cannes International Film Festival, the Swedish Film Institute celebrated its 50th anniversary, but instead of making the usual tribute speech, CEO Anna Serner challenged the international film industry on the following points: 

  • More than 1,000 films have competed for Cannes’ prestigious Palme d’Or in the past 50 years – 54 of them were directed by women. Only one of those has ever won, and that was 20 years ago.
  • Four people from among the more than 400 who have been nominated for an Oscar for Best Director have been women. One of those has won.
  • In Sweden, women have directed roughly 10% of all the feature films in the last 50 years. Eight women have won the Guldbagge – Sweden’s national film award – for Best Director in the last 50 years, five of them in the last ten years.

“That isn’t good enough,” concluded Serner, who launched an action plan in Sweden entitled Gender Equality in Film Production, Both in Front of and Behind the Camera. And last year, 65% of the Swedish features that received production funding from the institute commissioners were helmed by female directors.

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This year on the Côte d’Azur, the SFI and the WIFT Nordic Network – which was set up in 2013 to increase gender equality in Nordic film and television – will organise a seminar entitled 50/50 by 2020 – Global Reach, which will be headed up by Serner and take place on Saturday 20 May at 2pm in Palais K, Palais des Festivals. 

“Change-making requires energy, and I am convinced that this seminar will give participants the burst of energy they need to put thoughts into action. I really hope decision makers around the world take this opportunity to learn how to push for gender equality in order to achieve higher quality,” Serner explained.

“Sweden is a small country, but when it comes to gender equality in the film business, we come out on top and serve as a role model for the rest of the world,” added WIFT Nordic president Helene Granqvist. On the heels of the Swedish initiative, Norway, Canada and Ireland are all implementing similar strategies. 

Serner will moderate a discussion on gender equality in film and the obstacles still to overcome, with Polish director Agnieszka Holland and Austrian filmmaker Jessica Hausner, followed by presentations from James Hickey, CEO of the Irish Film BoardSindre Guldvog, CEO of the Norwegian Film Institute, US producer Lydia Dean Pilcher and Michèle Maheux, executive director/COO of the Toronto International Film Festival.

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