«Feminists are right to be angry ! » Agnès Varda said in 2017 right after Weinstein sexual abuse allegations. In order to celebrate International Women’s day and also on the occasion of Somewhere\Else’s association with the Ciné Balade dedicated to the only New Wave’s woman director , it’s time to evaluate women’s place in cinema, in front and behind camera.
By Quentin Moyon
In spite of many claims regarding women’s place in cinema, just like these 82 women climbing up the stairs during Cannes festival in 2018 or the open letter during the 75th edition of Venice Mostra in order to denounce the poor representation of women during the festival, inequalities are not even close to disappear.
“Feminists are right to be angry!”
First of all, in front of the camera. According to numbers from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film’s investigation, the number of female leading figures in 2017 was only 24%, which is not only weak, but also less than in 2016. Despite everything, female characters have increased in 2017 with 34%, whereas they were 32% the year before.
But we also have to question the nature of the roles attributed to women. Often restricted to roles where they work in social fields, in offices or religious field, men have more charismatic roles with more responsabilities: criminals or politicians.
We also have to mention that, out of 100 movies that made most profits in 2017, only 24% of the characters were women, and only 24% of them really had lines to say.
It’s a man’s man’s man’s world
The issue is the same behind the camera. In CNC’s investigation called “l’évolution de la place des femmes dans les secteurs du cinéma et de l’audiovisuel” made between 2006 and 2015, we learn that out of 300 films certified by CNC, only 63 were directed by women. Certainly there’s a real improvement compared to 2006 (35 films made by women), but it also show there are still inequalities in technical and creative professions, just like in production and the rest of cinema jobs.
Finally, it’s necessary to point out a strong gap between men’s and women’s wages. Indeed, in France, according to CNC, women directors are paid 42% less by hour than men. It’s also the case in other jobs like actress or set designer.
For this reason, the former Minister for Culture, Françoise Nyssen, implemented in 2019 a 15% subsidy bonus which might be attributed to movies in which 4 out of 8 key positions are women. There’s still the issue of big-budget movies monopolized by men. But things are changing in the US. Wonder Woman was successful even though its director and heroine are women. Captain Marvel, after Star Wars 7&8 or Hunger Game impose women in action movies…
The Bechdel test : an intuitive and interactive tool to understand
The difference of representation of women on screen has been illustrated in an interactive way by the cartoonist Alison Bechdel in her cartoon “Dykes to watch out for”. It allows to highlight the under-representation of female characters or on the contrary the over-representation of male characters in fictions.
The test is built on three criteria which are the following:
- The piece of work must contain minimum two women,
- Who interact with each other,
- About something else which has nothing to do with a man.
Many cult movies have failed this test, for example Psycho made by Alfred Hitchcock or the Star Wars‘ trilogy. Despite everything, CNC’s study gives hope somehow, showing upward trends regarding films directed by women, and a multiplication of the number of women directors who have made several movies. Like Agnès Varda, celebrated by Somewhere\Else on March 9 in asosciation with Ciné Balade, in the context of International Women’s day on March 8.
Meet us this saturday to follow the track of Agnès Varda.