Women's rally at Toronto film festival highlights movie industry inequality

Actor Geena Davis and actor and filmmaker Nandita Das share a laugh onstage during the Share Her Journey Rally in Toronto, Saturday, Sept, 8, 2018. Share Her Journey is a campaign organized by the Toronto International Film Festival to empower women in film.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marta Iwanek

TORONTO - Filmmakers, directors, actresses and movie fans converged at the Toronto International Film Festival this morning for a rally to address gender inequity in the movie industry.

The Share Her Journey Rally is among the more high-profile events tied to TIFF's mission to increase the participation, skills and opportunities for women eager to enter the business.

Toronto-raised singer and actress Shakura S'Aida kicked off the rally, speaking about her African-American mother's experiences during the civil rights movement in the south in the 1950s.

"Use your voice" to stand up to injustice, she stressed, before performing a song.

A panel of speakers included actress and activist Geena Davis, who noted the crowd included many men supporting the cause, "which I think is fantastic."

Davis spoke about the importance of including female characters and working with female cinematographers and directors.

She said her motto is "no more missed opportunities" when it comes to making a movie or TV show gender-balanced.

Other speakers included actress Nandita Das, inclusion expert Dr. Stacy Smith, actress and #AfterMeToo co-founder Mia Kirshner, and director Amma Asante.

Smith, who is credited with introducing the "inclusion rider" concept that was popularized by Frances McDormand at this year's Oscars, provided stark numbers about underrepresented racial and ethnic groups in the industry.

"All voices need to be lifted up from an intersectional lens," Smith said, about the need for change.

Events began with a pre-rally breakfast, where TIFF co-head Cameron Bailey pledged the fest's commitment to joining a broader industry campaign of reaching 50/50 gender parity by 2020.

Change is hard, but necessary, Bailey said, of the movement that started in France.

Meanwhile, the Directors Guild of Canada has announced its "So Not Cool" campaign, in which it urges cast and crew members to speak out whenever they witness harassment, bullying and violence on a set.

The guild's Kendrie Upton says it's time for "fundamental changes to the day-to-day culture in our industry."

"It's not just about knowing that you can report an incident. Each and every one of us should feel empowered to speak up when we see something unwelcome."

The Share Her Journey rally will be followed by the world premiere of the documentary, "This Changes Everything," in which an array of top actresses including Meryl Streep, Sandra Oh, Jessica Chastain, and Taraji P. Henson detail Hollywood's gender bias.

It's produced by Davis and directed by Tom Donahue, whose documentary "Casting By" championed a field dominated by women.

According to data gathered by the Share Her Journey campaign, female storytellers are in the minority across many key creative and decision-making roles.


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