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WOMEN IN CINEMA: KITTY BERTAZZI / THE BATTLE FOR GREATER ROOM FOR WOMEN

29.03.2018

A publication by the Creation Club of São Paulo on March 29 addresses the participation of women in cinema. O2 director Kitty Bertazzi was interviewed in this report and she comments on:

1- The need for young women to aspire to work in creative positions in the advertising market;

2- The viability of contractually assuring greater female participation in productions;

3- The “Free the Bid” movement that wants agencies to commit to considering a female director for every project;

4- A greater dissemination of cinematic works realized by women;

5- The need for inclusion and “determination” to ensure that female participation increases.

See the entire Creation Club article HERE.

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Women in Cinema

They want + chances to budget projects and equal rights

The inclusion of more women in the cinema market is a challenge which has been getting more attention over recent years, inside and outside of Brazil. Initiatives like Free the Bid are trying to broaden female participation in advertising projects. In cinema, the world recently discovered a resource to promote diversity among a production’s cast and crew. Everyone heard about it because actress Frances McDormand, in making her acceptance speech for the Best Actress Oscar, called on women to unite and summed up her speech with two words which caused a stir in the media: inclusion rider.

Frances, who in the film Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri plays the role of a mother fighting to see that the men who murdered her daughter are discovered and punished, asked all the women present at the Oscars to stand up. “Look around you, because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed. Don’t talk to us about it at the parties tonight, but invite us into your office in a couple of days,” she said, addressing the public in general.

Before leaving the stage, she left behind two words echoing in the audience and outside of the theater, and they became a trending topic on the social networks. This expression refers to a clause that actors or actresses can put into their contracts, requiring the cast and crew of a film to have a certain degree of diversity (read more here).

As part of the reflections promoted by International Woman’s Day – which are extending throughout the month – Club Online has heard from professionals from various segments to learn more about the obstacles they face and what can be done to increase their participation in these markets. We’ve already heard from Women in Advertising and Women in Sport. Now it’s time to hear from Women in Cinema.

We asked four questions of each of the women interviewed by Club Online: whether they have faced problems because they are women, what needs to be done to increase the participation of women in this sector, if it’s viable for the Brazilian market to adopt an inclusion rider (as mentioned by Frances McDormand) and what advice they would give to women in cinema. Each one of the women we heard – three directors and an actress – has a different story and has had a different relationship with cinema. Here they are:

SUZANA AMARAL

Director of the award-winning Hour of the Star (1985), Suzana Amaral is a cineaste, screenwriter, TV director and professor. Born in São Paulo in 1928, she was a member of the first graduating class in Cinema at ECA/USP, and received a graduate degree in Directing from New York University. She has directed more than 50 short films for the Open Camera program of TV Cultura.

Her first feature film Hour of the Star, featuring a screenplay by Suzana based on the novel by Clarice Lispector, won Marcelia Cartaxo the Silver Bear Best Actress Award at the Berlin Film Festival in 1986. Suzana has also worked as a script consultant and made the feature films A Hidden Life (2001) and Hotel Atlantico (2009).

Prejudice? She hasn’t felt it.

In her long career that began in 1977, she has never faced a situation that involved prejudice against women. On the other hand, she has never been interested in knowing if there was any problem due to this

Despite this, what’s needed in Brazil to increase the participation of women in the cinematographic industry? “There’s a lack of money for projects. There’s a lack of money in general in cinema. We also need government policies. The current ones are wrong.”

Questioned about the viability of an inclusion rider in this country, as mentioned by Frances McDormand, Suzana rules out this proposal which she considers “cheap advertising.” To her, what’s important is to focus on the project that you’re working on – after all, the situation in this sector is very different in Brazil (in comparison to the US). “Yes, we need a lot more women in cinema. It’s a different career. I think it’s a social issue. Cinema needs more investment.”

A woman who began preparing for cinema after giving birth to nine children, and who made her first feature film at 53 years of age, Suzana has a suggestion for other women who wish to continue or start a career in this area. “Go ahead. Fight for it. Show them how determined you are.”

CAROLINA JABOR

With her second feature film about to be released – Liquid Truth, starring Daniel de Oliveira which will premiere on April 12 – Carolina Jabor has been working in cinema for 25 years. A member of the artistic and creative board of Hysteria (a nucleus within Conspiração that produces and curates content created by women), she released the GNT series Desnude (Disrobe) about female sexuality in March.

Unspoken chauvinism

“I began working at a young age as a director’s assistant. Conspiração was just starting out,” she remembers, and says that she hasn’t had any overt problems due to her being a woman. “I believe that I’ve suffered unspoken chauvinism. Difficulties in being accepted earlier as a director.” In advertising, a sphere in which she also works, Carolina could never do a big budget car commercial, for example. “Come to think of it, I’ve only been considered for commercials for products destined for women and housewives. It’s hilarious,” she comments.

How can we increase the number of women in the cinematographic industry? To Carolina, there needs to be more opportunities and equal rights. To do this, women can work together. “I’ve just finished a project in which we made an effort to have women make up most of the creative team and crew, and it was beautiful,” she tells us.

She thinks a mechanism like the inclusion rider would be good for Brazil, precisely because it would create a movement for equality. “We have actresses and actors with big pull in the market. We should fight for this as well.” In Hollywood, the popularity of some stars can lead projects to really put in inclusion riders in their productions. This indicates the importance of engaging famous and desirable artists in this battle.

The advice that Carolina has to offer for someone who wants to make a name for herself in cinema is to believe in your strength. Her message is: “Don’t be afraid to lead, don’t underestimate yourself, study a lot and throw yourself into it.”

Carolina premiered as a feature film director in 2014 with Good Luck, starring Deborah Secco and Joao Pedro Zappa. The film won the Audience Award at the Brazilian Cinema Festival of Paris. Her new project Liquid Truth won the Petrobras Cinema Award at the 41st São Paulo Film Festival and the Best Fiction Film and Best Director Awards at the 25th Mix Brasil Festival. The film tells the story of a children’s swimming instructor who suffers a virtual lynching when he receives an accusation from a mother on a social network.

KITTY BERTAZZI

She’s been directing commercials for ten years. “I’ve been very well received by the market, but you get the sensation that a woman has to work twice as hard to be successful,” comments Kitty, adding that she always works late. “I haven’t had many problems, but there have been times when I haven’t been selected for projects because I’m a woman,” she reveals.

Women need to believe in their talent

From Kitty’s point of view, the participation of women in cinema will take place gradually. “I think it’s the same as with any other minority: we’re making more room for ourselves little by little. You can’t change a cultural habit overnight.” But in order for this to happen, women have to be persistent. “We need to believe more in our capacity and our talent and demonstrate this to the public. The cinematographic industry will assimilate us over time. That’s what I hope,” she says.

In addition, she underlines the need to encourage young women to study and aspire to work in creative positions. “If they don’t believe that they can make more room for themselves, then we’re lost. They’re the ones who are going to work to make sure that the percentage of women in this industry increases.”

If there’s a caveat to this, however, it’s that it would be better if we had a way to engage the market in this discussion. She considers having contracts with inclusion riders a viable option to ensure that more women star in and work in the production of films. “We have a movement in advertising called Free the Bid, which some agencies in Brazil have already adopted. They commit themselves to always considering at least one female director when making their decisions,” explains Kitty, who’s part of this group. “This can work for other services as well. I’m not very much in favor of imposing this on people, but I think it’s important that they at least get to know the work of women, and that’s the idea behind this project.”

This measure is fundamental. “We’re not going to work, if we can’t provide budgets and show our repertoire. Since there’s an obvious discrepancy, we do need inclusion,” she adds.

What advice would she give young women who are dreaming of working in cinema? “Believe. Go for it, put your soul into it, and do some great work. Someone’s sure to see it.” This advice is also valid for those who are already in the market and want to reach new heights.

BIANCA COMPARATO

With 13 years in cinema, the actress Bianca Comparato has already worked on more than 20 films and series. And even while working on projects, she managed to finish her degree in Cinema at PUC-RJ in 2010. She even took a class given by Joao Moreira Salles on documentaries.

The star of 3%, the first 100% Brazilian series produced by Netflix, Bianca’s experience has ranged from theater to streaming. In cinema she began in 2006 with a short film. In 2013, she played the younger sister of Renato Russo in the film Somos Tao Jovens (We’re So Young), for which she won Best Supporting Actress at the Brazilian Cinema Awards. Bianca is in four films this year: Maybe a Love Story, All the Reasons to Forget, Doce Coracao Cleptomaniaco (Sweet Kleptomaniac) and Morta Nao Fala (The Dead Don’t Speak).

In talking about the struggle of women in cinema, she looks back at her history. “Looking back, I see that I underestimated myself because I’m a woman, and I lacked the force to fight in a world dominated by men,” she says. After so many productions in her career, Bianca now feels different. “I’ve changed. I feel more empowered to fight for what I think is just and right.”

Strong female characters and equal pay

To improve the current situation, it’s important to have more screenwriters. That’s what Bianca believes. “I think that the most important thing is to have female screenwriters who know how to write good female characters, looking at them from a perspective of being on the inside looking out. Everything flows from that. If the essential voice is feminine, you already have the rest.”

For the actress, it’s also crucial to show men the need for equality. “We don’t have to exclude men to make room for ourselves. We have to create new spaces along with equal pay. It’s embarrassing to see men earning more than women for the same work, just because they’re men.”

An admirer of Frances McDormand, Bianca also considers an inclusion rider viable to achieve equality in cinematographic productions. “It’s quite viable. We just have to stick together. Sometimes I believe this is what’s lacking.” She thinks the American actress’s speech at the Oscars was inspiring and courageous.

What’s her advice to make life easier for women in cinema? “There’s no easy way out. Only hard work leads to success. You just can’t give up,” concludes Bianca.

Lena Castellon