By Sidney Drmay
This year TIFF boasts a whopping 397 films being screened during the 10-day festival. Yet, somehow, only 72 of those films are directed by women, according to the non-profit organization, Women in Film —roughly 20 per cent of the films. Basically, a pitifully small number, considering the size of the festival.
Within the Ryerson 2016 graduating class, about 60 per cent of films are directed by women in the end of year Ryerson University Film Festival, RUFF. The majority of the films also had female writers, producers and heavily centered female characters in their stories. While RUFF is obviously a smaller festival, it’s still the largest student film festival in the city and many of the films usually go on to appear at TIFF. Somehow that didn’t happen this year, which seems telling with TIFF’s low number of women directors.
It’s taken a long time for the numbers to be this high— there are still huge discrepancies between male and female directors at TIFF. This is reflective of the film industry on a whole —for instance, 25 per cent of American directors at the Sundance Film Festival were female. Women are consistently graduating from film programs and entering the industry in Toronto, yet TIFF—the Toronto-based film festival—isn’t reflecting that.
When asked in an interview with the LA Times about diversity, TIFF artistic programmer Cameron Bailey said, “We never want to say [diversity] is the goal because I don’t think that’s the right way to do it. But we do want to make sure we’re paying attention and maybe looking more deeply for stories that will help continue that conversation.”
The sentiment is nice, but let’s be real. Diversity can and should be a goal. Acting like it’s just a thing they considered downplays its importance. Some of the top grossing films in the past year have been women-lead, women-centric or women-directed—including Mad Max: Fury Road, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, so why are they not recognizing women’s work?
I’m excited that the festival hit 20 per cent women directed films this year, but goddamn, I really hope they keep pushing. Because TIFF can do better.