Out of 20 films premiering at the Venice Film Festival this year, just one has a female director.
Vivian Qu’s Angels Wear White is the only film directed by a woman that will compete for the Golden Lion at the prestigious festival, which runs from 30 August – 9 September.
Alberto Barbera, the festival’s director, told The Hollywood Reporter that Venice Film Festival wasn’t to blame.
Barbera named Annette Bening as president of the competition jury this year, the first female head in a decade, but also claimed to be completely against introducing a female quota to the line-up.
“I don’t think it’s our fault,” Barbera told the publication.
“I don’t like to think in terms of a quota when you make a selection process.”
“I’m sorry that there are very few films from women this year, but we are not producing films.”
He continued to explain that the screening location has little to do with gender parity:
“I won’t put a film in competition only because it’s a female film or whatever. I don’t think that will help the film.”
Venice Film Festival appears to have taken an even bigger step back than that of Cannes Film Festival, which was criticised earlier in the year due to showing the work of just three female directors.
Qu, the director of Angels Wear White, agreed with Barbera, explaining that the poor female representation is due to a lack of opportunities for female film-makers.
“[But] to go to the root of the problem, if more women were encouraged to work in film and had the opportunity to take on major creative roles, I’m sure we will see more and more films by women.”
Martha Lauzen, executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, weighed in on the gender issue:
“I’ve heard festival organisers and programmers from some of the larger festivals take very defensive positions on this issue, stating that women’s underemployment as directors is a reflection of the larger film industry and thus not their problem.”
“This posture strikes me as a case of passing the buck.”
Lauzen said she believes festivals need to take a closer look at their committees and how they pick films to compete.
“Do they favor choices that have been made in the past? If so, it is likely that they may be perpetuating bias,” she predicted.