×

Tokyo Festival Says It Is Listening to Women

Calls for greater female representation and advancement are being made loudly in the West, and latterly in Japan. The Tokyo International Film Festival claims to be listening.

Major film festivals have long been male-dominated, with relatively few women among the top ranks of festival directors, programmers and, in the competition sections, filmmakers.

Tokyo is no exception: All of its directors as well as nearly all of its head programmers have been men since its start in 1985. Women filmmakers have appeared in its competition and other major sections, but the gender balance on this year’s program still skews heavily male.

TIFF director Takeo Hisamatsu voices his support for women’s participation in both the festival but the industry as a whole. “I have been seeking out the views of both my female staff and industry professionals,” he says. “It’s an issue of deep concern to me and I am trying to find answers for what we can do as an international film festival.”

TIFF programming director Yoshi Yatabe insists that there are “no gender borders” in the selection process. But he acknowledges that: “When women directors are in an environment that hinders their filmmaking, that is definitely a problem we have to address.”

Yatabe points to “21st Century Girls,” an omnibus film screening in this year’s Japanese Cinema Splash section, as an example of TIFF’s support. Director and producer U-ki Yamato is a woman, as are the 14 young directors contributing to the project. “I was greatly moved by (Yamato’s) stance and selected ‘21st Century Girl’ as a special screening,” he said.

Currently, the head programmers of all TIFF’s main sections are male, but Yatabe notes that his two predecessors were women, as are many of the programmers working with him. “They are programmers I trust, who happen to be women,” he says. “I don’t respect their opinions just because of their sex.”

A woman on the TIFF staff who asked to remain anonymous commented that “There is no gender gap between the men and women programming for TIFF – there may in fact be more women.” “By extension, I believe there is no need for special treatment of women,” she added.

But she also noted that many of the female staffers at TIFF are working under “unstable conditions” – meaning temporary contracts rather than full-time employment.

Another female staffer explained that “TIFF tries to find talented filmmakers. They don’t apply the filter of gender. All that matters is the quality of the finished film and the talent of its creator.”

Another private sector executive, who previously had a long association with TIFF, points to the historical paucity of women in the festival’s top programming ranks. “TIFF never thought of nurturing or focusing on women’s power,” she told Variety. But the problem goes deeper. “The Japanese industry as a whole, should hire more women in executive positions, under fair conditions. And provide better workplaces for working women, with a job, family and kids.”

More Film

  • Matt Damon and Tom McCarthy Team

    Matt Damon Teams with 'Spotlight' Director Tom McCarthy on New Film (EXCLUSIVE)

    Even as buzz grows for his upcoming race car drama “Ford v. Ferrari,” Matt Damon looks to keep the pedal to the metal: the A-lister is set to star in the Participant Media feature film “Stillwater” with Tom McCarthy directing. Damon attached himself in May, and the package was quickly acquired by Participant, who previously [...]

  • US actor Kevin Spacey (C) is

    Kevin Spacey Shouldn't Be Exonerated in Hollywood Even as Criminal Case Ends (Column)

    The news that criminal charges against Kevin Spacey in the Nantucket groping case have been dropped raises an inevitable question: does this mean he can claw his way back into Hollywood’s good graces? Or maybe more importantly: should it?  Spacey’s rapid descent was startling, even as it quickly followed that of the once untouchable producing [...]

  • Movie Ticket Subscriptions

    As MoviePass Fades, Theaters Fall In Love With Subscription Services

    MoviePass may be cratering, but movie theater subscriptions are here to stay. AMC and Cinemark already operate their own online ticketing services. And by the end of July, Regal Entertainment is expected to unveil a subscription plan for customers accustomed to getting all manner of entertainment for a monthly fee. With ticket sales down more [...]

  • This photo shows composer Hans Zimmer

    Hans Zimmer on Recreating Iconic Score: 'The Lion King' 'Brought People Together'

    Composer Hans Zimmer is seated at the mixing board at the Sony scoring stage, head bobbing to the music being performed by 107 musicians just a few yards away. He’s wearing a vintage “Lion King World Tour” T-shirt, frayed at the collar. On the giant screen behind the orchestra, two lions are bounding across the [...]

  • Lion King merchandise

    'The Lion King': Disney Targets Nostalgic Adults With High-End Merchandise

    Does Nala wear lipstick? Probably not, but “The Lion King” fans can celebrate the release of the live-action remake with a new line of makeup that’s part of a whole pride of other items themed to Disney’s live action redo. For about $40, the Can’t Wait to Be Queen eyeshadow palette by Luminess Cosmetics includes [...]

  • 'Cats' Movie Trailer: Watch Taylor Swift,

    'Cats' Trailer Drops: Watch Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson in Movie Musical

    Universal has released the first trailer for its film adaptation of the Broadway play, “Cats,” starring Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson and James Corden. Based on the book “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” by T.S. Eliot, the musical follows the Jellicle cats, a family of felines who go before the group’s leader Old Deuteronomy to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content