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network 10/11/2015 - 10:00AM

Our Engaged Community - CP Exec Director Svetla Turnin Publishes on Documentary Gender (In)Equality

Be sure to check out the new article by Svetla Turnin, Cinema Politica’s Executive Director, in the latest issue of POV Magazine, Canada’s premiere journal of documentary filmmaking. 

In “Beyond the Female Gaze and Towards a Documentary Gender Equality”, Turnin reports on the discussions held during IDFA’s 2014 The Female Gaze program, wherein dozens of female documentary directors, producers, and exhibitors debated the visibility and power of women filmmakers in contemporary documentary culture.

Above, a few of the directors discussed in Svetla's article, including (left to right): Nishtha Jain, Pirjo Honkasalo, Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, Marie Mandy, Anna Serner, Heddy Honigmann, and Jaslima Žbanić.

Speakers like Nishtha Jain and Rachel Grady generally agreed that inconsistent and inaccessible funding is, in Turnin’s words, “the debilitating obstacle sabotaging the majority of women’s professional careers”. 

In a parallel issue, the typically low percentage of films made by women at major film festivals, like IDFA and Sundance, shows that the institutional bias against women filmmakers extends beyond production to programming. Among the article’s many proposed solutions to documentary’s gender inequality issues, Turnin insists that the counter-historical project of women’s filmmaking needs a “counter-programming” approach to better realize documentary’s potential for social change:

“there is the widespread notion in the liberal West that a film is a film is a film and that programming should be first and foremost predicated on objectively positioned merits. This tendency excludes taking into account the context in which the films are produced, funded, distributed, sold and seen. Considering little can be done while all of these stages are unjustly embedded in systems of white hetero-patriarchy, we need to focus on context, not shut it out.”

Although not directly addressed in the article, Turnin’s work with Cinema Politica demonstrates a clear commitment to programming films made by women. Over 50 per cent of the titles Cinema Politica’s recent programming—from network acquisitions to the single screenings at flagship Concordia’s Fall 2014, Winter 2015, and Fall 2015 seasons—are directed by women, including collective productions and co-director arrangements with at least one woman at the helm.

Congratulations to Svetla for her insightful contribution to a prestigious magazine, and thank you to all of Cinema Politica’s women filmmakers over the years who have screened truth to (male) power with us!