Venice Film Festival Chief On The Abysmal Lack Of Women Directors In His Program: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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Another day, another male media gatekeeper trying to deny any responsibility for institutional sexism.


Earlier this year, the Cannes Film Festival came under fire after only three of the 19 films screening in competition were directed by women. So naturally, the Venice Film Festival, which starts on Wednesday, has one-upped its French rival. Just one of the 21 films screening in competition at Venice is directed by a woman.

While this gigantic discrepancy certainly points to the general sexism of film industries around the world, it seems the director of the festival, Alberto Barbera, wants no part in actually doing something about it, aside from mentioning that Annette Bening is serving as the first female president of the festival jury in 11 years. Via Hollywood Reporter:

“I don’t think it’s our fault,” says Barbera, who adds that he screens films without knowing who the director is and believes there isn’t anything wrong with there being only one female-helmed movie good enough to make the competition cut.

“I don’t like to think in terms of a quota when you make a selection process,” he says. “I’m sorry that there are very few films from women this year, but we are not producing films.”

Barbera also discussed the female-directed films that will be screening out of competition, explaining that competition films face more scrutiny. He then said he wouldn’t put a film in competition just because it was a female film because it wouldn’t “help the film.”

Barbera is not wrong about the industry in general not producing female-directed films, but merely saying that sexism is not Venice’s fault is extremely weak. It also seems contingent on the idea that the whole festival and their lofty standards would go to shit if they let up on the exclusivity and let plebeian women in.

This of course perpetuates the idea that women can’t simply earn their way into competition the same way men can (when that is obviously not the case), and that women who are shut out have failed.

Vivian Qu, whose Angels Wear White is competing at Venice, told THR, “Of course I wish there were more female filmmakers presented in the festival (or in any festival). (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.”


Whether or not Venice wants to take responsibility, that only one woman directed a competition film is one of the clearest examples of the failure to support female filmmakers.

Isha is a staff reporter who covers pop culture, representation in media, and your new faves.