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European Industry Says ‘Enough of Dismissing Harassment,’ Launches New Initiative

After #MeToo in the U.S., the European film business is making its voice heard on harassment, with the launch in Berlin on Saturday of a region-wide initiative called Speak Up. The plan is to offer a reporting service for victims and to clamp down on abuse in the workplace and – fittingly, given the Berlinale launch-pad – at festivals.

Polish director Malgorzata Szumowska, who has “Mug” in competition at Berlin, unveiled Speak Up to a raucous reception in Berlin. “The European film industry has decided to unite under the banner of Speak Up,” she said. “We aim to offer a clear lead in ensuring sexual harassment and abuse are not tolerated in the work environment, whether it be offices or in the markets and festivals.”

She said that there was systemic abuse in the workplace and that the industry needed new policies, procedures and training on harassment and abuse. In practical terms, Speak Up will offer an email helpline service for people who have complaints; a lawyer will evaluate the complaints pro-bono and establish the next steps.

Speak Up was launched at Closing the Gap, an event hosted by Women in Film and Television Germany, WIFT Nordic, and the Swedish Film Institute. Szumowska added her voice to that of fellow directors Barbara Albert and Isabel Coixet, who spoke Wednesday about a new European ruling on harassment and new figures revealing the scope of the industry’s gender gap.

On its website, Speak Up said: “Enough of dismissing inappropriate groping and fondling as drunken behavior or harmless flirting. Enough of dismissing harassment and bullying as ‘banter’ and the victims as lacking a sense of humor.” There followed a seven-point manifesto that calls on employers to post prominent notices setting out rights and grievance processes. It recommends similar action at festivals, noting that “people working in the industry may be at their most vulnerable outside the office at markets and festivals.”

Earlier this week, the British entertainment industry, led by BAFTA and the British Film Institute, issued industry-wide guidelines on preventing and confronting harassment and abuse. The principles and guidelines were developed after months of consultation with more than 20 industry groups.

The Speak Up initiative comes amid controversy in Berlin over the festival’s invitation to South Korean auteur Kim Ki-duk, who was recently accused of sexually assaulting an actress. German culture minister Monika Gruetters also put #MeToo center stage when she told the opening-night audience, “The time for silence really must come to an end.”

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