Toronto International Film Festival Launches Five Year Commitment to Female Filmmakers

By Aaron Brophy 7/11/17 |

Filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal (top left), major donor Betty-Ann Heggie (top right), actor Omoni Oboli (bottom left), filmmaker Carol Nguyen (bottom right) — image courtesy TIFF
The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) has just announced a five-year commitment to support and grow female-forward film programming, which includes a residency for emerging creators and speaker series on gender equity.

"Inclusion, accessibility and diversity are central to our work at TIFF,” said TIFF's artistic director Cameron Bailey, artistic director, in a press statement. "We acknowledge that gender inequity is systemic in the screen industries, so change has to happen at every level. That includes getting more women into key creative roles.

"We plan to seek out, develop and showcase top female talent in the industry through our festival and year-round initiatives. Our mission is to transform the way people see the world through film. One of the most powerful ways to do that is to foreground the perspectives of women."

TIFF, which supports year-round events on top of its world-renowned film festival each fall, laid out six points the organization hopes to address with the new campaign. These include:

* Champion diversity of gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and physical and cognitive ability within gender equity initiatives
* Launch a three-month residency programme for emerging female creators
* Introduce a new producers’ accelerator programme for women
* Develop a speaker series to spark conversations on gender equity and gender identities in film
* Design comprehensive resources for educators to enhance the curriculum and support classroom discussions about women and gender in cinema
* Use industry data to track career trajectories and improve outcomes for women in film

One of the first initiatives TIFF will begin is the Share Her Journey program. Running from July 10 to Sept. 17, Share Her Journey "celebrates successful and inspirational women behind and in front of the camera whom TIFF has championed and supported over the years," according to TIFF.

Some of the women featured in the Share Her Journey program include Nigerian actor/director Omoni Oboli, emerging filmmaker Carol Nguyen, award-winning documentarian Jennifer Baichwal and Oscar-nominated filmmaker Deepa Mehta.

TIFF has been backing their commitment to female filmmakers with hard numbers. It says nearly 30 per cent of films at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival were directed by women and the organization has committed to a minimum of 50 per cent female participation for the TIFF Talent Development programmes such as Talent Lab, Studio and TIFF Rising Stars.

“By being part of our internationally-regarded programmes, female practitioners gain artistic and business tools, boost their marketplace understanding, make important connections and have conversations that can lead to future opportunities,” said Kathleen Drumm, TIFF's industry director.

To facilitate the Share Her Journey campaign TIFF intends to raise $3 million through fundraising efforts over the next five years.

The Hollywood Reporter published the results of a study in 2016 which showed films directed by women received significantly less industry support than films directed by men. This, despite the fact that female-led films frequently provide a better return on investment.

Watch Jennifer Baichwal discuss Share Her Journey

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