Les Arcs Film Festival celebrated British filmmaker Sarah Gavron (“Suffragette,” “Rocks”) with the Femmes de Cinema Award during a ceremony on Sunday.
The award, created by Les Arcs festival in partnership with Sisley, celebrates visionary female filmmakers from Europe and is aimed at boosting the representation of women in the film industry. Gavron last directed “Rocks” about a teenager, Shola, and her younger brother, who are abandoned by their mother. Afraid to be separated from her brother if social services find out they are living alone, Shola sets out to evade the authorities’ notice at all costs.
The drama, which played at Toronto and won two awards at San Sebastian, was set in East London and developed through workshops and improvisation with newcomers, many of whom are minorities.
Upon receiving the award, Gavron dedicated the film to all the women she’s worked with and thanked the festival and Sisley for “shining a light on female filmmakers because it’s still vital to change the statistics and to get more diverse and balanced storytelling on our screens.”
She added that as Pierre-Emmanuel Fleurantin (the CEO of Les Arcs Film Festival) was saying in his speech, one of the ideas behind the creation of the award was to find role models which is vital for young female directors. “That’s an idea close to my heart because when I was growing up it was very hard to find any role models, it was only in my 20’s when I discovered a handful of filmmakers that I had the idea that I could become a director,” said Gavron.
She also explained that the “film was made right from the beginning as a true collaboration between a number of women.” The cast was found before the script was conceived and the girls contributed to the writing of the script, as well as gave ideas and feedback to Gavron during the filming. She also said the crew was casted with 75% of young women from the same background as the girls themselves. “It was important that behind the camera we had people that the young women (on our cast) could identity themselves with,” said Gavron.
Spearheaded by Fabienne Silvestre-Bertoncini and Guillaume Calop (the co-founder of Les Arcs festival), Le Lab Femmes de Cinema is an initiative active all year around and is being backed by the Foundation Sisley-d’Ornano, in partnership with Les Arcs Festival, Elle and the org 50/50 for 2020.
Silvestre-Bertoncini recently unveiled a study about the place of women directors in the film industry during a conference hosted in Paris. The study shows that in 2018, there was about many women as men graduating from the major film schools in Europe, but only 20% of feature films made in Europe last year were directed by women. Looking at major European territories, the number of films directed by female helmers varies from 30.35% in Sweden, to 24.13% in France, 14.66% in Spain to 9.91% in Italy.
While there has been lots of talks about the need to have more women directors in Europe, the study shows that the situation has not improved in the last three years, said Silvestre-Bertoncini. In 2018, there were only 19.67% of films directed by women across Europe, compared with 21% in 2017 and 19,4% in 2015.