It looks like the film world is in for another much-needed feminist shake-up. The Bath Film Festival, which opens this Thursday, has introduced a new “F” rating, which will be given to movies that feature a strong female lead, director, producer or writer.
According to the Daily Mail, the festival organizers hope this decision will provoke a conversation about gender bias in the film industry and the noticeable lack of films featuring multi-faceted female characters.
Of the 42 films being shown in the festival, only 19 have achieved an “F” rating, and they include widely anticipated women-centric movies like Wild starring Reese Witherspoon andTestament of Youth starring Alicia Vikander.
But the exclusion of certain films, rather than their inclusion, is what’s most likely to provoke a deep discussion on what it actually means for a film to be “feminist.”
“There’s quite a lot of films with significant female roles that don’t pass the Bechdel test,” Holly Tarquini, producer of the Bath Film Festival, told the Daily Mail, of the test from cartoonist Alison Bechdel that requires two females to talk about something other than a man. “Gravity is the classic of course where Sandra [Bullock] plays such a strong character in the film, but doesn’t speak to another woman. “
Critics might say that’s a bit harsh, given that Bullock speaks to very few people in the film, and, when she does, it isn’t exactly to complain about shoes or her tumultuous love life. To say that a film is only feminist if it includes two women talking about something other than men might strike some as rather stringent, but these are exactly the type of questions Tarquini hopes to raise.
Tarquini is also trying to highlight more than just the gender divide on-screen; she knows that there’s just as much work to be done off-screen before any semblance of equality can be achieved.
“If you speak to people in the film industry they will claim there is no gender inequality, yet only 4.7 percent of the films coming out of Hollywood last year were directed by women which is just staggering,” she told the Daily Mail.
As of now, industry members seem divided on whether the movement will be embraced or mocked, but there’s one thing that everyone can agree on: the new rating will certainly start a vital dialogue regarding sexism in the world of cinema.