Equality is an on-going process in need of constant work. This is why the Helsinki International Film Festival – Love & Anarchy has decided to sign the international 5050×2020 pledge this year. By doing this, we will be joining the frontline of the battle for equality in the film industry.

The 5050×2020 is a film industry movement which originated around six years ago amongst national film institutes, with the Swedish Film Institute and its dynamic leader Anna Serner at the forefront of it all. Over the past few years, the movement has rapidly gotten more organised and expanded its activities thanks to the #MeToo movement. The French Collectif 5050×2020 got organised in 2018 and in May of that same year arranged an impactful demonstration at the main stage of the film industry – the Cannes Film Festival. 82 female film professionals marched up the famous red carpet, ending their protest at the stairs of Palais de Festivals. The number 82 had its significance, as during the whole 71-year history of Cannes, only 82 of the films screened had been directed by women. By comparison, the number of films directed by men up to that point was 1,645.

The problem is structural by nature and affects not only the film industry, but the whole society in general.

These kind of dumbfounding statistics make it clear that this is not a matter of coincidence or a stroke of bad luck – nor does there exist a mythical skill gap between sexes. The problem is structural by nature and affects not only the film industry, but the whole society in general. Among those protesting in Cannes, were the legendary film director Agnès Varda and one of the founding members of 5050×2020, Céline Sciamma, whose film Portrait of a Lady on Fire is screening as this year’s Love & Anarchy Gala Film. The collective aims to advance equality in the film industry, which in turn would invigorate the industry as well. This objective is pursued in effect by having active public discourses, working with statistics and studies and, more importantly, by encouraging the workers and institutions of the film industry to commit to working for equality for the long term. The network is global and has collectives everywhere from London to Hollywood. So far, the 5050×2020 pledge has been signed by Cannes, Berlinale, BFI London Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, International Documentary Film Festival IDFA and Göteborg Film Festival. Each festival has their own different method of promoting equality, but the goal is mutual for everyone. We are honoured to be a part of this group and we thank the Collectif 5050×2020 and Women in Film & Television Finland for inviting us to join them.

It is only natural for Love & Anarchy to join the 5050 movement. Joining the movement reasserts the same objectives that we have had at our festival for over 30 years. Diversity, equality, bringing forward marginal voices and reluctance to bow down before anyone have been at the heart of HIFF since the very beginning. Love and anarchy – like the name of Lina Wertmüller’s film which inspired the name of the festival describes our ethos perfectly. By signing the 5050×2020 Pledge for Gender Parity and Inclusion in Film Festivals, we promise accordingly to pursue equality through our actions and in our programme. We commit to compiling and publishing annual statistics relating to equality: the genders of the film directors and filmmakers of the films screened as well as the gender division of our programming team and board. We also commit to equalising the gender division of our board in a separate time frame, to be decided on a later date.

Our festival is a part of the film industry food chain with each one of its links, from funding to distribution and all the way down to the ticket purchasers, having their own effect on what kind of films are being made and who gets to be heard, seen and provided with opportunities.

The 5050×2020 not only serves as a tool to us, but also as a motivator. It is a way for us to operate with responsibility and challenge others to do the same. Our festival is a part of the film industry food chain with each one of its links, from funding to distribution and all the way down to the ticket purchasers, having their own effect on what kind of films are being made and who gets to be heard, seen and provided with opportunities. The issues regarding inequality are structural and none of us are above them. Conscious and measurable work is necessary in order to eradicate the problem. All prejudices should be cast aside when searching for solutions – the funding sector of the Finnish film industry should consider employing the gender quota, for example. We also strive to further the discussion of equality at the festival – we should abandon binarity and set off to establish broader inclusiveness.

We share the same beliefs with the 5050×2020 collective that in order to enrich film culture, more voices need to be heard. San Diego State University has in their most recent edition of their annually conducted study Celluloid Ceiling , found out that out of the top 100 most viewed films of 2018, 35% of all speaking roles belonged to women. In films exclusively directed and/or written by men, 21% of the roles were assigned to women. Comparatively, in films with at least one female director and/or writer, 57% of the roles were designated to women. The more there are different points of view behind the camera, the more diverse are the stories told. This also makes it more possible for the audience to see characters on-screen which are relatable to them. The power of representation should not be overlooked and it should never be the privilege of only a select few.

Each filmmaker has been included for their talent and because they can convey their message with vision and originality.

Besides artistic value, Love & Anarchy considers other criteria when selecting its programme, such as national representation, traditions of the festival, the contemporary film discourse and the global political climate. Even so, each one of the films chosen for HIFF has been selected because of its content and cinematic merits. Each filmmaker has been included for their talent and because they can convey their message with vision and originality. It must be noted that, using the prefix “female” or “woman” is not entirely unproblematic. However, it’s a useful tool when compiling statistics and attempting to solve problems related to inequality.

The goal of 5050 cannot be achieved at the drop of a hat – it has in fact become apparent that not many festivals will be able to achieve an even gender balance in their programme by the target year 2020. The reasons for this are multifaceted, some more valid than others. It is, however, evident that the matter is not a simple one. One challenge the festivals are facing is the fact that there are less films by women being made than there are by men. There are thus less films out there to choose from, whether we are talking about an invitation only film festival like HIFF or a festival which accepts submissions for their programme. Not to mention the fact, that only the leading film festivals such as Cannes and Venice are in a position where they can pick and choose almost any recent film for their programme and not always even them. A festivals’ programme curation is complicated by having to balance between film distribution planning, premiere-related demands and time schedules concerning materials.

We have to watch out for our blind spots and view the selection processes with a critical eye.

Nonetheless, there are no excuses – we just need to work harder to find new female filmmakers, discover new favourites and follow their careers persistently. We have to watch out for our blind spots and view the selection processes with a critical eye. We have to actively work on increasing the demand of films made by women, by collaborating with sales agents, distributors and funding organisations.

There are multitude of ways to promote equality, as I found out observing a panel discussion held at the Cannes Film Festival this year. The panel consisted of festival heads from IDFA, London, Annecy, Berlinale and Toronto. Equality at these festivals is not being promoted only through figures, but also in the qualitative hierarchies. IDFA, for example, has elevated more women into their Masters section, which presents auteurs of documentary films – a series previously mostly prevailed by men. Last year, HIFF introduced the Love & Anarchy Trailblazers selection which explores and explodes the canon of film history. This year the selection has included e.g. two films from the French master Claire Denis and Ula Stöckl’s German feminist cult film from 1968, The Cat Has Nine Lives. This will be (as far as we know) the latter’s Finnish cinema premiere. Our festival’s main attraction, the Gala Films selection has a female majority: three out of the four feature films and all of the R&A Shorts Gala films have been directed by women.

In the year 2019, the key figures at HIFF read as follows: the Love & Anarchy Festival Ministry a.k.a our programming team (of which 76% are women) compiled a list of over 800 films up for consideration for our programme. Out of all the films, 26% were directed by non-male directors. Out of the 350 films eventually chosen for our programme, 46% were directed by women or non-binary people. 32% out of the 159 feature films and 58% out of the 191 short films were directed by women.

Let’s march towards a better world!

Original Finnish text: Anna Möttölä
Translation: Aki Pitkäkoski
Illustration: Anna Parviainen

The writer is the Executive Director of HIFF – Love & Anarchy.