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Challenges and Advances in Gender Matters in Audiovisual Media at the AVACI Congress 2023



Among the different activities carried out at the AVACI 2023 International Congress, held in the Brazilian city of Río de Janeiro between May 2 and 5, a talk on the “Challenges and Achievements in the audiovisual field” was conducted, which provided an overview of the situation faced by audiovisual authors in the labor market and concerning their struggle to achieve conditions of equal pay and opportunities.


First, the Brazilian cinema from the beginning of the 20th century was mentioned, when there were only three female directors, taking Cléo de Verberena (Jacira Martins Silveira) as reference, who, in 1931, directed the feature film “O mistério do Dominó Preto” (also produced and starred by her) and after marrying César Melani, she founded the Épica Films Studio in Sao Paulo, which had to be closed after the death of her partner in 1934, and she could not finished her second film “Canção do Destino”, either.


In 2017, the National Agency of Brazil conducted a survey on the role of women in cinema. The results showed that during 1996-2017, 97% of the performances were directed by men; 92% were written by men and a little more than 70% of the actors that took part in those productions were men.


The Brazilian screenwriter, Sylvia Palma, member of the Administrative Council of GEDAR, highlighted “the injustice of the invisibility of women in the audiovisual field” and expressed that “when we talk about invisibility, we talk about emotions” and quoted as an example that “the first collective management society in Brazil was created by a woman, Gonçaga, at the beginning of the 20th century, it lasted a century and she is never mentioned in the history of cinema”.


O mistério do Dominó Preto (1931) Cléo de Verberena, Audiovisual Director


An issue that affects everyone

During the talk, the “invisibility, asymmetry, inequity, lack of opportunities and gender disparity” were emphasized.



The Argentinian director, Carmen Guarini, Vice-president of DAC, explained that “the figures show the difficulties of minorities to develop audiovisual projects. We support our societies in the management of remuneration rights so that they can make their governments enact laws that may observe such rights, and we are aware that there is no gender discrimination at the time of recording the works, but these works belong to men, mainly. What can we do to achieve greater equity?”


For Guarini, the “first step is to be able to recognize the problem in order to adopt political decisions thereon. It is an issue of everyone, not only women. It is not enough to meet once a year at a table. We want to know what men think and we want a diversity of opinions”.


The director asserted that “we have to develop an ethic that may transform the perspective of everyone, to forget about political correctness because we still cannot achieve true equality. In DAC, the inclusion of more female directors in the board has contributed to the wording of the new cinema law, adding the concept of gender equity to achieve: parity in the management of the Film Institute, equal participation in committees and juries and in the development of a specific fund to foster the productions of directors and diversities. Both in FESAAL and in AVACI, we managed to create spaces for debate like this one. We are aware about the importance of achieving a higher presence of women in these spaces because only the institutionalization of gender equity will help us to take certain steps towards a real diversity”.



Statistics to take into account

The history of the Brazilian film industry and the numbers provided by the survey of the National Agency are not an isolated case. The figures shared during the meetings of the AVACI 2023 International Congress yielded similar percentages in every country represented, also including the United States and the United Kingdom.


“52% of the French population is female and, however, at the time of being taken to the cinema, there are few places for them in the windows of heroism, of audacity or of exhibition, often reducing their participation to the domestic sphere, women are shown (even today) in their homes, occupying non-professional roles. “Is that the place they must take?”, the audiovisual director and screenwriter, Anja Unger, member of the Board of La SCAM (France), wondered.


The numbers show that only 7% of the films are produced by women and – according to surveys performed by La SCAM - 37% of women have collected authors’ rights in 2022 and 39% have received less than a hundred euros.


In Brazil, the last census also showed that women are majority in the population and the inequalities registered in France are also seen there. The Brazilian director, Malu de Martino (DBCA) argued that “actions must start here, among us. We must try to have more participation in the direction, in the boards. In our country, there are programs to promote contents with female directors and screenwriters. We have to work gradually with this. The only way to make progress is expanding our involvement. In Brazil, we have a lot of directors. In my films, I try to hire women for the technical teams”.



A soon as we recognize the problem, it is possible to make change. In this sense, Sylvia Palma shared a positive fact: “in Brazil, the most important film festival is coordinated by two women”.


In addition to sharing these data, making them visible and analyzing them, the Chilean screenwriter, Daniella Castagno (ATN) suggested to go a bit further: “We would like to invite you to share parity when developing these societies, of which we have been a founding part, from ALGyD, FESAAL or AVACI. We have been an essential part and we want to continue being peers and working together aligned. We believe we deserve it and we have conquered it. We have the same creative abilities. It hurts when we see that important decisions are adopted by a small group of men. We do not feel that we have to ask for a favor, for permission or special requests to be taken into account”.


Among the conclusions made at the table, Anja Unger proposed to “foster gender equity and diversity within the statutory bodies of AVACI and its member societies. Also in the board, in the council of audiovisual authors and in the executive council.”



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