Female filmmakers must grab opportunities in 2017


As we rush headlong into 2017, it is amazing that the obvious inequalities within the film industry in terms of the lack of representation of women in the behind-the-camera areas of the industry are still to be addressed. Most of the discussions around this imbalance have been anecdotal, but just in the last few weeks two studies of the film industry in the US prove that without a doubt the inequality is real and significant. While the same kind of research has not been done in Africa, just a cursory look at the state of the African film industry indicates that the situation is no better.

The good news is that already in 2017 there are a number of opportunities open specifically to African women filmmakers and it is imperative that women filmmakers from across the continent exploit as many of these opportunities as possible. Hopefully these and other similar initiatives will support in the creation of the kinds of networks required to support the career growth of women in the industry.

The state of inequality in the international film industry has been made abundantly clear in two reports issued within the last few weeks that break down the vast discrepancies between men and women in technical roles within Hollywood.

The Executive Director at the Centre for the Study of Women in Television and Film, Dr. Martha Lauzen, recently released her 19th annual Celluloid Ceiling report, looking at the behind the scenes employment of women on the top 250 grossing films of 2016. She found that women comprised only 17 per cent of all directors, editors, producers, writers, executive producers and cinematographers working on these top films. In 2016 only seven per cent of films produced in Hollywood had female directors.

Additionally, the recent report from the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism that looks at 1 000 films from the past 10 years finds that male directors outnumbered females by 24 to one.

Out of the 3 212 people working on these movies, women did best as producers (24%). This was followed by executive producers (17%), editors (17%), writers (13%), directors (7%) and cinematographers (5%).

Whilst similar statistics for Africa are harder to find, one just has to look at the major festivals and awards ceremonies across the continent to see the lack of female representation.

At last year’s African Movie Academy Awards, director Amadou Aicha Elhadji Maki from Niger was awarded for Best Documentary Film, but was the only female director awarded that year. At the Zanzibar International Film Festival 2016 the news wasn’t better, with only one African female director, Clementine Dusabejambo from Rwanda was awarded. Fortunately, ZIFF 2015 saw a much better showing for African women, with Ekwa Msangi (Tanzania), Lara Lee (South Africa), Sarah Mikayil (Morocco), Tulanana Bohela (Tanzania), and Honeymoon Mohamed (Tanzania) all winning major awards.

The Durban International Film Festival 2016 also only featured a handful of women winners amongst the many men, including The Best South African Feature Film that went to Tess, directed by Meg Rickards as well as South Africa’s Nadine Cloete and and Ethiopia’s Hiwot Admasu who were also acknowledged. A rare awarding of a technical category to a woman saw Linda Man win for the editing of Tess.

The South African Film and Television Award nominations that were also announced just recently reflect the reality of the inequality.  Within the film nominations where individuals were personally acknowledged for their production roles, only 23 per cent are women.

It is clear then that women filmmakers need to leverage any and all potential opportunities to secure exposure and recognition and to build contacts.

Female Filmmaker’s Project – National Film and Video Foundation

In South Africa, The NFVF is introducing a programme to provide opportunities to enable female filmmakers to develop, write, direct and produce 10 short films each over a period of three years. Majority female owned production companies can apply to head up the project that will then work with female filmmakers to produce the 10 films over the three-year period.

ZIFF Adiaha Award 2017

The Zanzibar International Film Festival 2017 will be presenting ‘The Adiaha Award’ for Best African Female Documentary Filmmaker will be offered for the first time at the 20th edition. The Prize comes with a $2 000 cash award, an Adiaha Statue and a certificate.

The award aims to raise the profile on documentary filmmaking on the continent, and more specifically to ensure that more female filmmakers all over Africa get involved in the development of documentaries.

Black Star International Film Festival: Women in Film Category

This film festival takes place from 18 to 21 August in Ghana and aims to serve as a bridge between African Cinema and the world. The Women In Film Category is only open to films that have a predominant female crew and either the Producer, Director and DOP must also be a woman. Applications for this festival are open until 15 April  2017.

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Lara Utian-Preston
Lara Utian-Preston is a passionately committed marketer and strategist with a focus on promoting African content and events. Two decades of working across Africa have provided her with insights and experience that she puts to work for the projects she manages. In 2006, Lara founded, and still personally manages, Red Flag Content Relations, a full service below-the-line agency that also focuses on African entertainment and lifestyle brand marketing, strategy, and publicity.


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