The work of women directors is a key topic of discussions dealing with contemporary world cinema. The disintegrating or disintegrated patriarchal regimes in many countries bring forth interesting female filmmakers. In the most progressive countries like Sweden the gender policy in cinema is intentionally aimed at opening possibilities for women; the proportion of producers, directors, scriptwriters is nearing the equilibrium – 50 – 50. In other Western countries, which do not have a similar gender policy in cinema, women still can’t make a breakthrough in big-budget cinema (for instance there are only 9 per cent women directors in Hollywood) but the independent and low-budget sphere gives them opportunities to claim the right to their own voice. On average in progressive Western countries the percentage of women working in cinema is nearing 30. The latest figures show that in Norway there are 26 per cent of women directors, 37 per cent of women producers, 29 per cent of women screenwriters. The figures for Israel are approximately the same indicating the number of women in filmmaking as 30 %.
In all the world it is not easy for women to become part of the film community. To a certain degree it was illustrated by the uproar at the Cannes Film Festival of 2012 when the selectors were publicly accused of the unwillingness to include films by women directors, and in particular that by the British director Andrea Arnold, into the competition. The incident caused a wave of feminist protests not merely in France but in world press. The apex of the protests was a memorandum of “La Barbe” group, signed by 900 women and published in “Le Monde”. “Men like depth in women but only when it is the depth of their cleavage” – this quote by Arnold was reprinted over and over again in various articles about the incident. Despite Thierry Frémaux’s attempts to explain that the selectors were guided by their understanding of what a good film is and not by the sex of its author, the scandal played its part. In 2013 the Cannes completion listed «Un Chateau En Italie» by Valeria Bruni Tedeschi and in 2014 the selectors found space for two movies by women directors: “Still the Water” by Naomi Kawase and “Le meraviglie” by Alice Rohrwacher, while Andrea Arnold headed the jury of the Critics Week. It was then that the unending public debates about gender discrimination resonated with the words of the only winner of the Palme d’Or Jane Campion: “A studio system is similar to aging boys, they have difficulty understanding that women may be capable of something”.
The public discussion had its effect not merely on the future policy of the Cannes Festival, but on other world film forums as well, though, as the protesters noted, Sundance had been including works by female directors for a number of years. It goes without saying that the Moscow International Film Festival cannot ignore gender changes in cinema and offers a program compiled of the most interesting films by women directors of the past year. The goal of the program is to demonstrate how active women have become in Western countries and throughout the world, to show the variety of the themes they tackle, the methods and techniques they use and to underline the common message of their efforts despite the diverse life environment. Their efforts are directed not merely at defending their rights to self-expression and social equality in the societies they live in, but also at trying to use cinematic means to express their understanding of the “female”, “male”, “political”, “sensual”, “mundane”. Directors seem to give their own voices to female protagonists. These voices let them become more than mere “subordinates” in the patriarchal system and evidence different strategies of ascertaining the position of a modern subject.
Anjelika Artyukh, curator of the program