Film needs more women, German festival director says | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 23.04.2012
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Film needs more women, German festival director says

There is no shortage of up-and-coming female talent, but film is still a male-dominated field. The International Women’s Film Festival aims to change that, said Silke J. Räbiger, the event's organizer.

A scene from the film 17 Filles by Muriel & Delphine Coulin

A scene from the film "17 Filles" by Muriel & Delphine Coulin

In 1987, Silke J. Räbiger attended the first German Women's Film Festival in Dortmund. A lot has changed since then: Women's film festivals have become more professional, less feminist, and now men are also invited to watch the films. Räbiger is the artistic director of the biggest festival of this kind in Germany, the International Women's Film Festival, which took place over the weekend in Cologne.

DW: Silke Räbiger, is the film industry a macho industry?

Silke J. Räbiger: Yes, in many areas it is still very male-dominated. We have lots of female screenplay writers. Maybe that is because it is an activity which can be done at home and during flexible working hours. But we have fewer women in the field of cinematography, for example, and practically no women in the field of lighting.

There are small numbers of women working in sound production and in editing. Cutting was previously a female domain, but since digital cutting techniques have become popular, there are simply more men in that particular field.

Silke Räbiger, artistic director of the International Women's Film Festival in Cologne 2012

Silke Räbiger, artistic director of the International Women's Film Festival in Cologne 2012

Why is it important for you to increase the numbers of women working in these fields?

Something is missing. Artistically, something is missing when half of the population cannot see their view of the world depicted in movie theaters.

How are "female"´films different to "male" films?

I think that women have more female protagonists in their films than men do. But that doesn't mean that men can't also produce wonderful scenes from the perspective of women. But it is the case that women much more frequently have female leads.

It's a great game to play: Look at the International Berlin Film Festival, look at the Oscars, and count the numbers: The number of films in which women have exchanged more than a few sentences with one another which weren't about men or children or cooking is incredibly small.

A scene from the film Mommy Is Coming

A scene from the film "Mommy Is Coming," showing at this year's festival

But there is also another dimension to this. I wouldn't just say there is a difference between men and women - it can't be reduced purely down to biologically determined gender. Of course it's also about the roles society assigns to men and women. Films from the queer-feminist or LGBT communities are really quite rare in cinemas. They have a very unique language, very unique connotations, unique images. That is what is lacking in the mainstream and does not exist in popular film culture. We're trying to incorporate that into the festival, to show those films and discuss them.

A lot has changed in society since the first Women's Film Festival in Cologne in 1984. But the International Women's Film Festival remains a fixture. Do you think that there is still a need for it?

Yes, unfortunately. It is sad. As we began the project, we thought it could be a phase-out model, but it isn't that at all. The truth is, and it is a bitter truth, that not much has really changed. We can't say that society hasn't changed at all: We have many more female students in universities in the most diverse range of fields, but sadly we don't find them in professional life.

Interview: Laura Döing / hw
Editor: Kate Bowen

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