Venice festival head defends 'gender bias' in film selection

ROME • Venice Film Festival director Alberto Barbera said he watched 500 films by women this year, but only one - Jennifer Kent's The Nightingale - made the cut for the main competition that has 21 entries in all.

The lone pick is a repeat of last year's - when Vivian Qu's Angels Wear White got the nod.

Among the 60 films picked as part of the festival's Official Selection (including competition and out of competition) this year, just eight are directed by women. No wonder then that European women's groups lambaste the decision as gender bias and are demanding that Barbera take immediate measures to address it. The festival runs from Aug 29 to Sept 8.

But Giorgio Gosetti, director of Venice Days, an independent festival that runs alongside the main event, does not think women are marginalised.

He pointed out that six of the 12 feature films in competition at this year's Venice Days are helmed by female directors.

"Female creativity, therefore, reigns supreme in Venice. This time, like many other times," Gosetti said.

"That's why I subscribe to Barbera's view: Cinema is not a matter of women's quotas and films are not chosen on the basis of the gender of the directors.

"The strength and creativity of women are, however, unrivalled and this exhibition (at Venice Days) will confirm that."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 14, 2018, with the headline 'Venice festival head defends 'gender bias' in film selection'. Print Edition | Subscribe