Venice Jury President Guillermo del Toro Calls for Gender Equality

Jury President Guillermo del Toro poses for photographers at the photo call for the Jury at the 75th edition of the Venice Film Festival in VeniceFilm Festival 2018 Jury Photo Call, Venice, Italy - 29 Aug 2018
Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP/REX/Shutt

Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro spoke passionately about the need for gender equality on the opening day of the Venice Film Festival, which has come under fire for its dearth of female-directed films in competition.

“I think the goal has to be 50-50 by 2020. If it’s 50-50 by 2019, that’s even better,” del Toro, the Venice jury president, said Wednesday at a news conference, where he was joined by fellow jury members Christoph Waltz, Naomi Watts, Sylvia Chang, Trine Dyrholm, Nicole Garcia, Paolo Genovese, Malgorzata Szumowska and Taika Waititi.

The under-representation of female directors was the hot topic. Out of 21 competition titles in Venice, only one is directed by a woman. The festival has also come under pressure to follow in the footsteps of the Cannes, Locarno and Sarajevo festivals in signing a pledge on gender parity.

“We have a real problem now. It’s a real problem in our culture in general,” del Toro said. “Many of the voices that need to be heard have to be heard. It’s not a matter of establishing a quota; it’s a matter of in this time, precisely this type of conversation [is needed] to call it out and make it known. I think it’s necessary because for many decades, if not centuries, it has not been called [out].”

Del Toro said he was currently producing five movies, three of which will be directed by a woman, a pair of whom are making their feature debuts.

It’s the second year in a row that Venice’s competition lineup has only a single film directed by a woman – in this year’s case, Jennifer Kent’s “The Nightingale.” The festival’s artistic director, Alberto Barbera, who has been criticized for failing to select more female filmmakers in the lineup, did not comment on the issue during the press conference. Paolo Baratta who presides over the organization that runs the festival, told journalists that “the submissions of films by women directors is relatively low – 21% on average.”

“I hope that other festivals will disclose their data on this, so we can have a reference point for a more objective examination of the situation,” Baratta said. “As far as the suspicion that the festival has bias…and that we need to check this, I am absolutely open to this. But I am also against the idea that quotas are the solutions to fix film festivals.”

Venice is expected to sign a pledge for gender equality later this week.