It’s 1896. A celestial fairy appears on the screen, draped in an exquisite costume decorated with flowers. She’s pulling tiny babies out of huge cabbages in a graceful, choreographed movement. The 51-second film, The Cabbage Fairy, brought to the screen the first fictional film ever made.
This film was produced by a woman, Alice Guy Blanché. She was a screenwriter, director, and production manager. Despite her achievements, she is remembered as Léon Gaumont’s secretary.
She was a pioneer, holding the cinematic torch in a world overshadowed by men.
Over a century has passed since, but the film world has barely changed.
The European Audiovisual Observatory published a study in October, placing the number of women movie directors in mainland Europe at only 25%.
Directing documentaries is where women hold the highest percentage of roles: a slim 30%.
Women represent 39% of lead roles but only 10% of cinematographers and 28% of screenwriters.
Despite women receiving awards at some prestigious festivals, the fight for diversity persists. In the 2022 Cesar Ceremony, no women were nominated for best director.
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Women directors bring an invaluable perspective through their films, enriching our vision of the world, breaking stereotypes, and addressing controversial issues.
To give women in the film business a platform to be recognised and celebrated, the festival “Elles Tournent” was launched in Belgium 15 years ago.
Since then, the festival has been promoting women’s work in the artistic and cultural world, particularly in the audiovisual sector.
Coup d’envoi de la 15e édition de “Elles tournent”, un festival de films de femmes destiné à valoriser le travail de réalisatrices du monde entier. Au programme : une vingtaine de séances de films, d’avant-premières, de séances inédites, d’interventions et de débats. 🎬 #brussels pic.twitter.com/aRbuzLOaXR
— Delphine Houba (@DelphineHouba) March 22, 2023
Marie Vermeiren, one of the festival’s founders, has shared the collective’s motivation behind the Festival:
“We were a group of girls in the film industry realising that our films will not be seen. We thought we had to organise something. Because if no one is doing it, we have to! We don’t devalue movies directed by men. Instead, we call for diversity in the industry. The name of the Festival derives from Alice Guy’s famous expression: “Tournez, Mesdames”! (“Roll’em, Ladies!”). We want to show that yes, women make films that should be seen.”
For this year’s programme, the range of submitted films was impressive: 120 feature-length documentaries, 60 fiction films and no less than 250 short films, all made by women. A total of 40 films will be presented during the festival.
The festival debuts on Wednesday, March 22, lasting until March 27.
It will offer numerous other events aside from film screenings, such as masterclasses, bringing communities together to create a supportive network across the world.
At this year’s festival, Elles Tournent is organising a roundtable for discussion of recently published studies conducted by Sarah Sepulchre with the Belgian collective Elles Font des Filmes in collaboration with the French network Le Lab “Femmes de Cinéma.”
The discussions will echo the qualitative and quantitative findings of the research, evaluating the role and representation of women in front of and behind the camera.
Non-European women directors attending the festival will have the opportunity to share insight into the realities of their job in their respective countries.
This will be an enriching and groundbreaking experience to address the inequalities in the film industry, giving all of these women a powerful voice.
“We are celebrating our 15th anniversary this year, and we are very happy to be able to offer a platform and a spotlight to women directors, even though we hope that one day we won’t need Elles Tournent anymore, as they will be much more prominent everywhere,” shares Hanoulia Salamé, coordinator of the festival.
Elles Tournent is a wonderful opportunity for women directors worldwide to showcase their work while simultaneously inspiring so many young girls in the world. Hopefully, one day, the Festival will no longer be needed, as the film industry will diversify enough to give women as big of a spotlight as men.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: Film Roll. Featured Photo Credit: Denise Jans