The official 75th Venice Film Festival has not yet responded to a letter written by European women's groups demanding that director Alberto Barbera and Biennale president Paolo Baratta take immediate measures to address gender bias which has resulted in a lack of female directors for years in the official competition, Hollywood Reported wrote.
While Barbera insists that he will always choose a film based on its merits, groups including the European Women's Audiovisual Network, Women in Film and TV International, WIFT Nordic, WIFT Sweden and the Swiss Women's Audiovisual Network are no longer buying it. They claim he is inherently saying that women are inferior filmmakers and that diversity will only bring more to the table and ultimately "fix this rigged system, which favors mainly white males".
On Sunday, Venice Days (Giornate degli Autori), an independent festival that runs alongside the main Biennale, released its own statement: "The Giornate degli Autori is a response to the alert launched by the women's audiovisual associations and networks criticizing the lack of women directors in the lineup at the 75th Mostra di Venezia. A 'female boxer' has been put on this year's poster in their defense."
The statement acknowledges that the women's group letter "deserves attention, yet more precise information is needed".
"In the year of the triumphant #MeToo hashtag, we have to come to terms with the effects of the most powerful feminist movement of the millennium. Once abuse has been placed under the spotlight, a new culture has to be rebuilt in order for the role of women to be acknowledged without discrimination," the statement continued, using the occasion to promote its own lineup, which indeed does feature six out of the official 12 films directed by women from around the globe.
Gosetti, however, made a bold statement by saying that there should be no reason to complain as Venice Days should fulfill any need for diversity.
"There is real, genuine motivation in women's organizations to be cohesive and demand visibility so that the film industry can become increasingly important and more widespread; owing its art to women’s creativity. There can be no accusations against the Venice Film Festival this year, thanks to Giornate degli Autori," he said.
"But above all, six out of 12 feature films in competition at the 2018 Giornate have been directed by female directors and nine are included in our selection," continued Gosetti.
"Female creativity, therefore, reigns supreme in Venice. This time, like many other times. That's why I subscribe to director Alberto Barbera's view: Cinema is not a matter of women's quotas and films are not chosen on the basis of the gender of the directors. The strength and creativity of women is, however, unrivaled and this exhibition will confirm that."
Gosetti has made great efforts to include women filmmakers over the years, which he doesn't see as a quota, but mainly as filling his lineup with the most interesting films of the year.
The letter urged people to not focus on the women missing from the festival, but rather the women who will be there: "The most important event will not be about the controversy over absenteeism, but all about the Venice Lido film screenings, where the rule of the game at the festival will be recognizing a filmmaker's real worth — starting from Claire Burger's, whose film 'Real Love' will open the Giornate."
His words are unlikely to appease many of the women's organizations who see the real problem as giving women equal representation in the main competition, and the language surrounding Barbera's choices, which insinuate that women directors are just not as good as men.
Barbera told The Hollywood Reporter he watched 500 films by women this year and only one made the cut.
The European Women's Network responded to Hollywood Reporter with an updated statement: "We believe that we have made our case through our open letter. Though we celebrate the diversity and advance of the Giornate degli Autori, 'featuring the image of a red-gloved female boxer looking straight at her adversary, without renouncing her femininity in doing so' does not seem to reflect an adequate response to the change within the system that we are asking for." '"