September 29, 2016

Feminism reaches the cinema

Daily Mail

Feminism reaches the cinema: Films with a strong female character set to be given a special new ‘F’ rating at upcoming Bath Film Festival

  • Bath’s 24th Film Festival to introduce new ‘F’ rating
  • Will be given to films with strong female lead, director, producer or writer
  • Only 19 of the 42 films to be shown have been given an ‘F’ rating 
  • Speaking to the MailOnline, festival producer says she hopes to start conversation on the gender inequality in film industry 

As well as standard age ratings such as PG, 12A and 18 we may soon be seeing films given an additional rating based on its depiction of female  characters.

The Bath Film Festival has announced that it will be introducing a new ‘F’ rating when it opens for its 24th year later this week, which will indicate that a film either has a strong female protagonist, director or screenwriter or addresses women’s issues.

This rating takes forward the idea of the ‘Bechdel test’, which festival organisers believe is too restrictive, and aims to counteract the gender stereotyping of women that is so prominent in the film industry.

The ‘Bechdel test’ was developed by cartoonist and US feminist Alison Bechdel and monitors whether at least two female characters talk to each other about subjects other than men.

Cinemas in Sweden embraced the guidance system, last year introducing an ‘A’ rating to highlight films that failed the Bechdel test and so are deemed to have a shortage of ‘female perspectives’.

However the organisers of this years Bath Film Festival felt that the rating was lacking, prompting them to introduce their ‘F’ rating, which is held by only 19 of the 42 films being shown during the festival, including Reese Witherspoon’s new film ‘Wild’, My Old Lady starring Maggie Smith and Testament of Youth which is Vera Brittain’s story of life during WW1.

Speaking to the MailOnline Producer of Bath Film Festival Holly Tarquini explained the decision to expand on the Bechdel 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.
‘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 Hollywood last 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.’

Holly and the Bath Film Festival organising committee hope that their new ‘F’ rating will draw attention to this issue, as well as the female characters depicted in films.

‘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.

‘It feels as if we don’t shine a light on it and acknowledge it wont ever change. We need to look at it and talk about it.

‘It would be great if everybody took it on so that people who are interested carry on having the conversation about how disproportionate it is.’

They hope that the F rating will also go some way to helping alleviate the falling numbers of women in the film industry in the UK.

Figures from the BFI’s Statistical Yearbook for 2013 show that in 2011, 18.9 per cent of UK writers for released films were female, in 2012, it was 13.4 per cent.

Similarly, in 2011 15 per cent of all UK films released were directed by women, this went down too to just 7.8 per cent in 2012.

Research in the U.S. also supports the notion that women are underrepresented on the screen and that little has changed in the past 60 years.

Of the U.S. top 100 films in 2011, women accounted for 33 per cent of all characters and only 11 per cent of the protagonists, according to a study by the San Diego-based Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film.

Another study, by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, showed the ratio of male to female characters in movies has remained at about two to one for at least six decades. That study, which examined 855 top box-office films from 1950-2006, showed female characters were twice as likely to be seen in explicit sexual scenes as males, while male characters were more likely to be seen as violent.

‘Apparently Hollywood thinks that films with male characters will do better at the box office. It is also the case that most of the aspects of movie-making – writing, production, direction, and so on – are dominated by men, and so it is not a surprise that the stories we see are those that tend to revolve around men,’ Amy Bleakley, the study’s lead author, said in an email.

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