The Venice Film Festival signed a gender-parity pledge on Friday following accusations of gender bias and toxic masculinity.
Festival director Alberto Barbera and La Biennale president Paolo Baratta signed the Charter for Parity and Inclusion along with Women in Film, Television & Media Italia and Dissenso Comune on Friday afternoon at a news conference.
“For months, we have carried out a dialogue aimed at constructive change,” said Margherita Chiti, vice president of Women in Film, Television & Media Italia. “With this signature, it is clear that Italy intends to have an active role in the worldwide conversation that will lead to greater equality and inclusiveness for women at all levels of the media and audiovisual industry.”
The signing now means that Venice joins fellow film festivals Cannes, Locarno, and Sarajevo in their pledge to embrace gender equality.
Initiated by the 5050×2020 movement in Cannes, the pledge means Venice must be transparent in the festival’s selection process, releasing statistics on submissions, and agreeing to reach gender parity within the organization’s executive leadership boards as soon as possible.
The pledge does not include quotas in relation to the selection of films based on gender. “From the start, I wanted there to be clarity about the fact that no festival has signed any pledges regarding quotas [in] selections… and nobody has ever asked them to,” Baratta told Variety.
Venice has faced backlash in recent years for its male-director-heavy lineup. Jennifer Kent’s “The Nightingale” is the only film directed by a woman that features in the official competition this year. And of the 60 films selected for the 2018 festival — including competition, out of competition, and Orizzonti — only eight films are directed by women.
Baratta, however, denies accusations of “toxic masculinity” and says that Venice is not unique in this regard: “If the Venice festival is an example of toxic masculinity because they have just one film by a woman in competition then I don’t understand why a festival that instead has two should not be considered toxic.
“In that case, all we would have to do is have three women in competition next year and the problem would be solved. This would be ridiculous!”
In comparison, the Cannes Film Festival had three films directed by women in its competition this year.