Swedish Film Institute’s 50/50 Panel Explores Paths to Equality in the Entertainment Industry

Rebecca Davis

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Chair of Time’s Up U.K. Heather Rabbatts had fighting words about the imminent verdict from the New York Harvey Weinstein rape trial for a packed audience gathered to hear a panel on gender equality on the sidelines of the Berlin Film Festival.

“Whatever happens tomorrow, it is not the end of this issue. It isn’t about win or lose,” she said. “This is a movement that’s started; it’s not going to go back in the box.”

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Rabbatts spoke at an EFM Horizon event co-hosted by the Swedish Film Institute called “50/50 by 2020 – A Roadmap for the Future.” She went on to expound on how to keep up the momentum towards gender equality that has gathered in wake of the #MeToo movement, which  itself unfurled out of the Weinstein revelations 

On Friday, the New York jury reached a verdict on three out of five counts against Weinstein, but ended stuck in a deadlock over the last two most serious charges of predatory assault. They will return to deliberations on Monday.

“Anybody who has power, who is in control of decision-making, whether you’re an awards festival, an institute, a studio, a production company, a Netflix: appoint women, appoint people of color, and see what happens. That’s what we have to focus on: power,” she said to applause.

She added: “The thing about power is nobody gives it up willingly. You have to wrench it out of people’s bleeding hands. And you do that by data, buy building alliances, by having people speak and stand up. The more we do that, the harder it will be to resist.”

Anna Serner, CEO of the Swedish Film Institute, pointed out the particular responsibility festivals that continue to drive the global arthouse industry have to helping the movement. “It’s the same bubble of people going to every festival, and they are all agreeing on what is considered quality and what is not. You need to change the people and power, so that you can realize that others do find quality in other kinds of stories and expressions.”

In Sweden, there’s currently a widespread measure of pushback to that shift in power, she said, with many white male creators complaining that her institute’s position is “bad for freedom of art,” because they feel obligated to “leave [their artistic voices] and try to please” the funding body and its politics.

But the industry must keep pushing the dial in more diverse directions, both women said.

“People ask me, should we have a women’s award? Should we have a people of color award? No! Should we have a white men award?” joked Rabbatts. “We have to look at who’s defining what’s other. We are not the other; We’re here.”

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