March 8, 2017

F-rated: IMDb introduces classification system to highlight work by women

Gwilym Mumford, The Guardian

Rating awarded to Frozen, American Honey and others, as database adopts system to raise profile of movies written by, directed by and starring women.

The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has adopted the F rating, a feminist classification system designed to highlight films that are written, directed or starring women.

The F rating was created in 2014 by Bath film festival executive director Holly Tarquini to “support women in film and change the stories we see on screen”. It was inspired by the Bechdel test, a system devised by the cartoonist Alison Bechdel to determine whether a work of fiction features at least two women talking about topics other than a man.

Tarquini’s classification awards an F rating to any film that is written or directed by one or more female film-makers, or features complex female characters who contribute significantly to the story. Films that feature all three of the criteria receive a triple F rating.

More than 40 cinemas and film festivals, as well as the Bath comedy, international music and children’s literature festivals, have adopted the rating. Now, IMDb has followed suit, adding it to more than 21,000 titles on its site, including FrozenAmerican Honey and Under the Shadow.

“It’s great that you can now use IMDb to browse films directed and written by women,” Tarquini told the Guardian.

“This is important because films by and featuring women often have significantly less spent on promotion, so they are more difficult for audiences to find,” she said. “As soon as organisations start F-rating their programmes, they screen more films directed by, written by and starring women.”

“The F-rating is a great way to highlight women on screen and behind the camera,” IMDb boss Col Needham told the BBC.

There were questions, however, about how IMDb will use the classification. The rating is not included on the landing pages or plot keyword pages of F-rated films, and the only way to discover if a film has the rating is by searching the IMDb reference page.

“I am so pleased that 21,800 films have been tagged on IMDb as F-rated. Of course, I would love the F-rating logo to be featured prominently on each of these films,” Tarquini said.

Despite the widespread implementation of her rating, Tarquini says work still must be done to increase female representation on film. “I hope that the F rating will become redundant as the stories we see on screen reflect our culture, and that 50% of the stories we see [will be] told by and about women.”

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