Tribeca’s female gaze

The New York indie festival is presenting a more realistic representation of films helmed by women

Director crystal moselle

Director Crystal Moselle Courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival

The Mean Streets of Lower Manhattan are set to become a shade less mean for women in film this week, as the Tribeca Film Festival presents a record number of female directors in its competition.

While depressingly little has changed for women behind the camera in Hollywood since Scorsese’s 1973 depiction of unbalanced punks and mafiosi in Tribeca’s neighbouring Little Italy, indie festivals and initiatives like Dazed’s Female First campaign are increasingly doing something to tip the scales in their favour.

Yet the stats are somewhat sobering. This year’s Celluloid Ceiling report, the longest-running study of women’s behind-the-scenes employment in film in the US, saw women taking up just 17% of all roles in the top 250 domestic grossing films in 2014. This is the same percentage since 1998. Just 7 per cent of these films had female directors. Let’s rephrase that: 93% had NO FEMALE DIRECTORS. Cinematographers were the only group that fared worse, with women comprising just 5 per cent of the overall tally. The consequences for the diversity of voices being heard, stories being told and journeys prioritised is alarming, particularly when women make up 50 per cent of the cinema-going audience.

Tribeca has 12 native New York female directors in the competition this year. And the city itself has produced some of the most exciting and diverse female-helmed talents around over the last few years, from Brooklynite Desiree Akhavan and her semi-autobiographical debut Appropriate Behavior (which she directed, wrote and starred in) and indie auteur Sofia Coppola to Spike Lee’s NYU protege Lucy Molloy, who premiered Una Nochein 2012 at TFF, where it nabbed the award for best director, cinematography and actor.

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