"When I was a film student in Belgium, we were only two women out of 20 students, but today the ratio is about 50/50. Meier told Variety that the gender parity in film schools should be reflected not only in festival lineups but also in selection committees. So there's no reason why the ratio in festival programming should be around 20%," said Meier.
Locarno Film Festival officials signed today a programming pledge for parity and inclusion, following the footsteps of Cannes Film Festival.
"Locarno has built a reputation for being a great international showcase of cinema and as such it must highlight films directed by women and as well as men," said Meier, adding that through her career she has been inspired by the work and personalities of talented women directors, including Jane Campion, Chantale Ackerman, Lucrecia Martel, Celine Sciamma and Agnes Varda.
At today's pledge signing event in Locarno, there was a consensus that numerical parity is not enough: Women have to raise the glass ceiling. The federal cultural minister promised an in-depth study of film industry parity, in employment and crucially occupation of key decision-taking positions by Spring 2019 as a pilot report for others analyzing further cultural industry sectors.
So, as Americans say shooting movies, “Action!” Meier said. "As at Cannes, this is just a beginning. People have to walk the walk.
Visibility of our films is essential," said Gabriel Baur, Laura Kaehr and Stéphane Mitchell, SWAN's co-presidents, in a statement. "We are thrilled about this first step towards equality and diversity in festivals. Just as with budgets and funding, women are entitled to an equal share of the spotlight and the screens.
The pledge was signed by Locarno fest president Marco Solari and vice president Carla Speziali. The initiative was put together by the Swiss Women’s Audiovisual Network (SWAN) with director Ursula Meier, who is the pledge Godmother, and producer Pauline Gygax, the pledge advisor.
The biggest action so far has been the SFR1 million ($1 million) grant announced one hour later given by Suissimage, the country’s rights authors collections society to Meier’s English-language debut “Quiet Land” produced out of Switzerland by one of the up-and-coming company Bandita Films.
She has also discovered the work of major directors at Locarno, from Alexandre Sokourov to Hou Hsiao Hsien and Wong Kar-Wai. She then won the Silver Leopard and the Youth Award with "Tous a Table" in 2001. The director said she has always had a strong bond with Locarno since winning the Tomorrow Leopard Award with her first short "Le Songe d'Isaac" in 2004.
Following the event today, the Mexico table of Locarno's Match Me! networking event also discussed at length the emerging generation of women filmmakers in Mexico who are changing perceptions about what should be expected of a film made by a woman in the country, and what may be the market for certain kinds of Mexican films.” />
Besides the pledge, SWAN is also pushing for the Swiss film board to look closely at the number of projects from women directors which are applying for subsidies and the ratio of projects selected for public funding, according to Meier.
"The financing part is essential to allow women directors to make movies and being selected at a festival plays a key role in the financing because it can raise a profile of a filmmaker and create a demand," said Kaehr.