The Marché du Film explores “Creating the New Normal: Intersectionality in the Film Industry”
by Kaleem Aftab
- CANNES 2020: Anna Serner of the SFI, Emilia Roig of the Center for Intersectional Justice, and The Black List’s Franklin Leonard call on the film industry to tackle bias on all levels
Swedish Film Institute boss Anna Serner has called upon the film industry to stop talking about making changes to the gender and demographic makeup of their companies, and take action. She was specifically talking about "people with the power to put up a target to make clear where they want their production company or funding institute to be, and start moving there". Serner added that those with authority should employ outside organisations to analyse their company and implement the suggestions that they make for changes to happen.
Serner was talking on a panel entitled “Creating the New Normal: Intersectionality in the Film Industry”, alongside Emilia Roig, of the Berlin-based Center for Intersectional Justice (ICJ), and Franklin Leonard, of The Black List, which took place as part of the online Cannes Marché du Film. Cineuropa correspondent Kaleem Aftab moderated the talk.
The event started with Serner talking about the gender-parity campaign she started at Cannes in 2016: 50/50 by 2020. "Someone stole 2020 from us all, isn't it so? And that is good news because, otherwise, we would have come to an end, but now we must all keep on working." She talked about how managing to give grants to an equal number of men and women then highlighted other issues. These include the financial disparity in terms of how much money is handed out to the genders, and the failure to give grants to a big enough demographic pool, which she is now determined to tackle at the Swedish Film Institute. "We have achieved 50/50 in Sweden, but the more you scrutinise the numbers, the less equality you find."
Serner added, "We have not reached equality with financing. For me, it's been very clear that we have lost out on the intersectionality part; we have not been talking about race, we have not been talking about queer, and we have not been talking about all women."
The term “intersectionality” was explained by leading expert Emilia Roig. It means: "Fighting discrimination within discrimination, tackling inequalities within inequalities, and making marginalised groups and minorities visible within larger sub-groups."
Leonard, who recently penned a deal with Hulu to elevate Latinx writing talent on television, argued that not only is intersectionality good for the soul, but it's also good for business. "Not that I'm a capitalist, but by re-tooling the film industry so that people who are making content look like the audience that's consuming it, you have a really good chance of doing well financially by doing good ethically."
The far-ranging talks looked at how films reinforce stereotypes, institutional biases, and how significant change will require a holistic perspective, from shifting attitudes to looking at the architecture and layout of buildings, thus creating safe spaces where bias, which everyone has, can be eliminated.
Summing up, Leonard counselled, "The conventional wisdom of what we have all been told about what works and what doesn't when it comes to filmmaking profits is all convention and no wisdom. […] I get phone calls from very senior people asking for my advice, usually about race, but also about intersectionality. I say, ‘You have two choices: you can either figure it out, or you should continue to make as many bad decisions that are sexist, ableist and anti-queer as is humanly possible so that your bosses fire you, and you can be replaced by someone who does get it before you run your company into the ground.’"
Roig called on people in the industry to let go of the world view that they believe to be true. "You don't need to hold on to that. No one asked you to. And let go of your privilege. This can also be liberating for people who belong to the invisible norm. Oppression is good for no one."
Finally, Serner said that everyone could do their part by asking those with power: "What is your target, and how do you plan to get there? The awareness of inequality is so much greater now than it was just five years ago. I think that you should be on the decision makers all the time, asking them why they’re not doing anything – because there are no excuses for not doing anything."
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