As the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements move the needle on conversations about gender parity in Hollywood and beyond, African women are determined not to be left behind.
Enter The A-List — a homegrown effort to address the systemic imbalances facing African women working in film and TV — which will have its official launch at the Cape Town Intl. Film Market and Festival, which runs Oct. 9-19. The list will provide a comprehensive, searchable database of female professionals working below the line in production across the continent.
“I think most women in the industry will agree that the technical space is where women are most underrepresented,” says Lara Preston of the Ladima Foundation, the Cape Town-based nonprofit that is launching The A-List. “With this list we can show that there is always the right woman for the job.”
During the planning stages, adds Preston, organizers were looking for tangible, doable things — small and simple ideas to assist women to actually get work in the industry. “Often the argument used [by producers] is that they couldn’t find a woman for the job,” she says, noting that The A-List was inspired by the Women in Media’s Crew List, which was launched in Los Angeles in 2017. “As the list grows, it will enable anyone to search for a specific skill in a specific location, and ideally lead to more work for women.”
The A-List has already gathered nearly 800 names representing 29 African nations, from industry powerhouses like South Africa and Nigeria to countries as far-flung as Togo, The Gambia and South Sudan. “We were overwhelmed by the positive response from both individuals and film organizations toward the project,” Preston says. Organizers are busy signing up more women and developing the back end of the searchable database. In the coming weeks, The A-List will be promoted to production houses and companies around the world looking to shoot in Africa.
It’s the latest step forward for the Ladima Foundation, which is involved in a number of partnerships across the continent, including a training program for southern African women working in film and TV, organized with the South African nonprofit Steps. Among the projects currently in the late planning stages is an initiative to provide long-term training in animation for young women in conflict areas.
As The A-List prepares to go live this month, Preston says Ladima will continue to work with its partners — film boards, festivals and similarly focused nonprofits — to “develop communities … where women in the industry can find support, mentorship and opportunities but also work toward systematic changes wherever possible.
“I think the most exciting thing is to see a pan-African network of women in the industry forming in front of our eyes,” Preston adds. “We believe that partnerships and collaborations are the only way forward, not just for women but for the industry as a whole.”