Female filmmakers need to make sure they can continue telling the kind of stories they want, said Croatian director Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović during Sarajevo Film Festival’s CineLink Talk.
Kusijanović, who recently won the Camera d’Or at Cannes for her debut feature “Murina,” criticized the Oscars’ new diversity rules for encouraging a form of reverse engineering. “It makes the companies go: ‘We just need one lesbian woman, two Black women and we can still make the film we always wanted with our male director.’ I think those quotas don’t work,” she said, stressing they should be applied to financing instead.
“More women come out of film schools than men and yet they still get less funding. The answer I get, which is crazy, is that ‘women have families.’ I just worked with a woman who has five kids and shot 125 films,” she said, mentioning the achievements of her DoP Hélène Louvart.
Bianca Oana, currently producing Adina Pintilie’s second feature “Death and the Maiden,” argued against quotas, viewing them as “imposed segregation” (“It’s like with children and toys, when you take it away from one and give it to another who ‘needs’ it more. Why don’t we just create more toys?”). They can also limit one’s creativity, argued director Aida Begić.
“Are we, women directors, writing and creating projects that are trying to live up to these expectations? As creative people, we should be free from quotas and create content that we feel is important,” she said.
While things are slowly changing in the industry and hiding one’s femininity on set is no longer necessary, it’s still important to lean on other women sometimes.
“I always knew that I was a ‘female’ directing student – because of how men treated me. They were patronizing me, telling me what to do or saying that if I fail, I can always be a mother,” recounted Begić, calling her collaboration with producer Amra Bakšić Čamo a “turning point” in her career.
Although Uruguayan producer Agustina Chiarino warned against hiding behind “political correctness” or depicting dilemmas always in binary terms, as like-minded supporters can be found also among men, an all-female set allowed Kusijanović to finally dedicate her entire energy to work, rather than proving herself to others.
“I was almost seven months pregnant at the time. My cinematographer was pregnant as well, my gaffer, electrician – they were all women,” she said, mentioning her recent shoot in Mexico. “Afterwards, I went home and felt incredible lightness. Before 2017, I used to say I’ve never had a problem with being a woman in this industry. I lived in denial.”
Noting some of their colleagues’ recent successes, including Chloé Zhao’s Oscar triumph with “Nomadland,” the participants talked about the beginning of a new era for cinema, with women at the helm.
“If you look at American cinema, it would be impossible to imagine certain indie films, directed by women, nominated or even shortlisted for Oscars before. We should use this moment, because this fashion can change and something else will be ‘fancy’ and ‘sexy’. This is our time,” said Begić.
Now in post-production with her new film “A Ballad,” the Bosnian helmer mentioned that while women can certainly bring a different point of view to the screen, they can also influence the atmosphere on film sets, dominated by bullish behavior. And then, hopefully, the audience will follow as well.
“In arthouse cinema, we have lost contact with our audience and maybe women will change that as well? And we won’t be just showing our films at festivals, to each other,” she said.
“What women want? They want to do whatever they want,” summed up Bakšić Čamo. “That’s the definition of freedom.”