Only one film out of 21 playing in the Venice Film Festival competition this year is directed by a woman. After festival director Alberto Barbera passed the blame in an interview on Tuesday, jury president Annette Bening has doubled down on Barbera’s lack of concern.
In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Bening, the first woman jury head in over a decade, responded to the criticism of the lack of gender diversity at the prestigious event:
“I was thrilled to be asked to be here, so I didn’t count the number of films that were accepted that were directed by women,” said Bening.
“They watched 2,000 films if you can imagine what that would be like. So no, I didn’t approach it that way,” she added.
Barbera had suggested that the issue is mainly that women don’t produce enough films, and Bening seemed to echo that the onus is on women to create, not on people in power to curate and support:
“I think that we as women, we have to be very sharp and shrewd and creative ourselves about what we choose to make,” she said.
For Bening, the difficulty of making a movie is a universal problem, not just a female problem. “I know that most people that I know, whether they’re veterans or newcomers, or they’re men or women, most people struggle to get their movies made,” she said.
“And there is a lot of sexism, of course that exists. There’s no question. But I think things are changing,” she said. “The more that we, as women, can make films that speak to everyone, we can be regarded as filmmakers.”
THR compares the situation at Venice Film Festival to the Toronto Film Festival, which launched a residency program this year for women filmmakers. In statement on the program’s launch to Variety in July, TFF’s artistic director Cameron Bailey openly acknowledge the systemic issues that keep women from finding a place in media to the degree men do:
“We acknowledge that gender inequity is systemic in the screen industries, so change has to happen at every level. That includes getting more women into key creative roles,” said Cameron Bailey, the festival’s artistic director. “We plan to seek out, develop, and showcase top female talent in the industry through our festival and year-round initiatives. Our mission is to transform the way people see the world through film. One of the most powerful ways to do that is to foreground the perspectives of women.
For her part, Bening too does acknowledge that sexism exists in filmmaking, though she believes things are moving in the right direction, somehow:
“We have a long way to go, in terms of parity — production, directors, writers, actresses, appearing in festivals and all of that,” she said. “I think the direction we’re going is positive.”