Remember the feminist film festival in Melbourne, Australia we told you about not too long ago? The ‘Girls on Film‘ festival was created to break down stigma around the word “feminism” and to show a range of films where women were portrayed as strong, complex, and unique lead characters, not just the pretty sidekick.
We are happy to report there is another exciting festival which is dedicated an entire category to feminism. The Bath Film Festival in the UK has a new range of films which fall under the “F-Rated” section. The F rating is to indicate a film which has a strong female protagonist, director or screenwriter or addresses women’s issues.
The idea of this rating was to counteract the stereotypes which still exist in many films today, and go one step further than the all-important Bechdel Test. In case you haven’t heard of it, the test was developed by US cartoonist Allison Bechdel to identify whether a film portrays women in an equal manner as men. There are three questions a film must answer positively in order to pass the Bechdel test: (1) Does the film have at least 2 female characters in it? (2) Do those female characters talk to each other? (3) Do they talk to each other about something other than a man? Almost 70% of the top grossing 250 films on IMDb cannot pass this test.
Organizers of the Bath Film Festival felt the Bechdel rating was a little too restrictive so they wanted to expand on this with their F Rating.
“There’s quite a lot of films with significant female roles that don’t pass the Bechdel test. Gravity is the classic of course where Sandra (Bullock) plays such a strong character in the film but doesn’t speak to another woman,” explained the Producer of Bath Film Festival Holly Tarquini to the Daily Mail.
“I also wanted to illustrate the discrepancies not just in people on screen but those behind the camera. There is a significant gender difference in the numbers of men and women in producing, writing and directing roles. If you speak to people in the film industry they will claim there is no gender inequality, yet only 4.7 per cent of the films coming out of Hollywoodlast year were directed by women which is just staggering.”
“I don’t think it is something considered or intentional within the industry. And it is certainly not based on concerns over profit; films directed by women gross the same, films with female lead tend to gross more, and more women buy cinema tickets than men.”
This has been clearly evident over the past year with films such as ‘The Hunger Games’ and ‘Frozen‘ featuring strong female leads which have beaten out other films at the box office.
Holly goes on to say the lack of female representation both in front of and behind the camera is a very important topic of discussion and if we don’t bring it to light it will never change.
“If you look at movies there are minuscule numbers of women in professional roles in them, yet, certainly in the UK and US, in reality it is 50 per cent. They don’t reflect reality,” she said, adding it would be great if more festivals and film organizations adopted there idea to continue the conversation.
Some of the films featured in the F-Rated category were ‘Wild’ starring Reese Witherspoon, ‘Night Moves’ starring Jesse Eisenberg, ‘Testament Of Youth’ starring ‘Games of Thrones’ Kit Harrington, and a British film called ‘Northern Soul which is already so popular, it is screening twice.
Some of the films sold out before the festival started, which once again goes to show that films made by women and/or starring women are not just an after-thought, audiences genuinely want to see these films. Entertainment is not a gender-specific medium and the Bath Film Festival are not only making an important statement, they are part of a growing global conversation about how we can represent women better. It needs to happen in a lot of industries, but with film and TV being arguably the most influential vehicle of communication that exists today, it only makes sense accurate representations would be a prerequisite.