Empowering Female Filmmakers

The Importance of Diversity in Films

With a world rich with different cultures and people with experiences from all walks of life, it is important to represent their stories through cinema in ways that embrace the diversity and complexity of these people. Unfortunately, in mainstream media, these voices are far too often belittled or kept hidden away, and the lack of diversity makes it difficult for these voices to stand out and connect with others who share their experiences. It’s important for festivals to engage in this discussion of diversity by exposing audiences to the unique voices of filmmakers from around the globe.

In the last ten years, Latin American cinema has risen with its production of films from all different genres. The many diverse stories produced from these regions are unique and have depth. We spoke with programmer for the Palm Springs and the Seattle International film festival, Hebe Tabachnik, who hand picked Everything Else/ Todo Lo Demas for this years Sydney Latin American Festival.  Hebe has taken it upon herself to make sure that audiences don’t label the films she chooses as just “Latin American films”.

She says, “I want to make sure that they actually discover that we have enormous amounts of stories. That we’re funny, we are light and we are deep, and we are dark. We can tell horror stories, and we can have suspense and Western’s romantic comedies. We can have films dealing with all kinds of issues and we can tackle environmental matters or LGBT matters.” Hebe equates presenting her film selection for a program as “preparing a nice dinner for your guests.” She says, “Making sure that you will have a little bit of everything so everybody will find something that they like.”

Diversity is important in cinema. Encouraging people of colour, women filmmakers, LGBTQ and other diverse voices, often unheard of in the industry, to go out there and share their stories. It inspires them as filmmakers to showcase the range of possibilities to share their unique stories in new and innovative story-telling styles.

This year, half of the films being screened at the Sydney Latin American film festival are directed by women. The presence of women in film across most countries in the last ten years has increased with the help of schools, more festival engagement and programs which cater to women filmmakers. Hebe states anything that can be done for women to gain industry knowledge and have access to production resources is key to making sure that their voices are heard.

An example for the importance of sharing these unique voices in festivals is Natalia Almada’s film, Todo lo Demas. For SLAFF this year, Hebe handpicked Almada’s film for the program and says, “One of the things I admire about her work is she’s able to locate something in reality in what’s surrounding us all, and bring it up in a way that not only we notice what’s going on, but what she says about it or how she says it. It’s both highly creative and makes you reflect.”

Hebe says it is important for festivals to put in that extra effort to scout for films which represent these stories. Supporting this visibility in festivals ensures that these diverse voices and unique stories from regions all around the world are able to connect to audiences who share these experiences.

For the full film 2017 Sydney Latin American Film Festival program head to www.sydneylatinofilmfestival.org/films