Raised eyebrows, databases and patience: Launching a WIFT chapter

Launching a WIFT chapter in Italy: A short story of raised eyebrows, databases and patience

By Domizia De Rosa, WIFTM Italy


In April 2018 Women in Film, Television & Media Italy came to life in a country of solid sexist, chauvinist, classist, patriarchal traditions, where rape had been a moral offence and not a crime against the person until 1996 and the double standard continues to be the true classic standard. The notorious TV-land of scantily clad showgirls and curvaceous prima donnas.

2018 was the year of the Women’s March in Cannes, of 5050 by 2020 and of that pledge that required festivals to compile gender statistics and improve transparency around the selection processes, which Cannes Film Festival signed and that we were able to present to the Venice Film Festival the same year, together with other sister associations. Venice signed and then other important Italian festivals followed, more or less enthusiastically .

These first results, which would have not been achieved without the WIF international network and previous efforts by other groups as EWA, made immediately clear that to be relevant in our industry and remove the usual question: “Do we still need women’s associations? Aren’t you already working everywhere? What else do you want??”, we needed a fact-based approach and we needed to elaborate a grounded discourse: to clarify that ‘being everywhere’ does not mean having a sustainable career and that ‘being everywhere’ does not mean that we are really in every ‘here’ and every ‘there’, with a proper salary and a long-term career prospect. Not to mention respect and empathy.

We studied the few data and researches available in Italy and joined the tables active at that time.

And we decided to take upon ourselves investigating a data set which had to be of undeniable importance.

We chose to calculate how many women directors operated in Italy in 2008-2018. For real.

And luckily the talents of the Research group brought the research home and we were able to present it to the industry in 2019 in the first annual seminar on gender equality and inclusivity that the Biennale of Venice proposed and agreed to organize with us as part of their 2018 pledge.

Hundreds of journalists or professionals did not flock to this event. Of course, any event with ‘women / gender equality’ in the title is a great deterrent for our male colleagues. As if gender inequality is not a social, cultural, political hindrance for everybody.

Anyway, we made our point:

in 2008-2018 only 9% of all Italian feature films were directed by a woman.

This means a total of 153 feature films, while male directors were at the helm of 1493 titles. This means that however you look at it, yes, we have a problem and it will not solve itself because ‘new generations’ will fill the gap. The gender gap is actually a space filled by men, who love their privileges, even when they do not see them.

This research was also our general statement: without knowledge, no serious conversation can take place and activate courses of action.

In a country where ‘feminist’ can still be said with contempt and be taken as an insult, in a country where many women still start their sentence by saying: “I am not a feminist, but..” or feel the need to assert vigorously: “I do not want to be chosen/awarded/given an opportunity because I am woman, I want to join the party because of my undeniable talent”, we keep our own biases at bay and answer:

– feminism is many things, but not one to be ashamed of, and it has given us tools to read, destructure and rebuild our culture – wouldn’t it be foolish to waste such a treasure which to many women costed too much?

– talent comes in many ways, not all of them are accepted or even understood immediately, but most importantly talent does not go far without nurturing and space to grow. How long does it take to join the party, if you are not given the address or if you are taking the bus while the others have chauffeurs?

Let’s not be fooled by pride or misconception.

First thing is ‘being there’, taking center stage, making room for the others, changing the rules and then talents will flourish equally because all talents will have access, space, time, networks to do so.

Long way to go, sure. Another good reason for traveling in good company.