Sunday, February 21, 2016

Australian actor Simone Ball blasts gender inequity at Tropfest in open letter

Australian actor Simone Ball blasts gender inequity at Tropfest in open letter

Published in IF magazine a few days ago.

The gist of Simone’s complaint is that:

“Of the sixteen finalists, only one was female.”

Is this because whoever short-listed the films was discriminating against female filmmakers or because s/he or they felt that only one film by a female filmmaker was deserving of being included in the finalist’s list?

It would be interesting to hear from Tropfest on this question.

Simone’s complaint continues:

“In fact, since 2010, there have only been 18 female finalists out of a total of 96 shortlisted films.”  Out of context

This statistic, taken out of context, could be read as clear evidence of discrimination. However…

Quoting Simone again:

“John Polson told Inside Film last year that the number of female entrants and female finalists traditionally hovered around twenty percent, “marginally better than the industry standard…”

Some very elementary maths makes clear that Simone’s argument here lacks logic:

18 out of 96 of female finalists is roughly 20%. And the number of female Tropfest entrants is roughly 20%.

So, in the last six years the percentage of female finalists is identical to the percentage of female applicants?

So, precisely what is the problem, Simone?

And whose fault is it that only 20% of Tropfest entrants are women? Who can we blame?

In this day and age any young woman armed with a mobile phone and with access to a home computer editing system can make a film. Tropfest is a celebration of innovation and imagination; not a competition to see who can access the biggest budgets and make the flashiest films. A Tropfest film made for $100 can be demonstrably better than one made for $100,000 and win first prize, as history has shown. What is it that is preventing young (and perhaps not so young) women from making and entering films in Tropfest?
As for Simone’s observation that only 14% of “best performing Australian films” were directed by women, whose fault is this?

Is this because audiences discriminate against films directed by women? Or could it be because audiences (male and female) did not find these films, directed by women, entertaining? The success of Jocelyn Morehouse’s “The Dressmaker” suggests  that very few members of domestic or international audiences care one way or another what the gender of a filmmaker is – director of screenwriter. They want to be entertained, pure and simple, and both male and female directors are equally capable of creating such entertainment.

Do distributors, sales agents, and other investors in films, factor in the gender of the filmmaker when deciding whether or not to invest in a film? Or do they look at the quality of the screenplay, the experience of the director (male or female) and whether of not they believe there is an audience for the film in question?   

A month before IF magazine published Simone’s ‘blast’ at Tropfest, I submitted an opinion piece of my own about the question of gender inequity and quotas to The Australian Director’s Guild’s online newspaper ‘Screen Director’. It was intended to be a contribution to a debate that I felt was an important one to be conducted in public; with a diverse range of opinions presented for consideration about what is clearly a contentious issue.

The ADG declined to publish my ‘opinion piece’ believing, it seems, that the argument in favour of quotas is so strong, so irrefutable, that no dialogue, no debate, is necessary.

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