The Toronto International Film Festival is putting together a $3 million fund that will be used to set up three-month artist residencies for women filmmakers, launch a speaker series about women in film, and create resources for educators who want to discuss Hollywood’s sexism problem with their students.
Variety reports that the fund will also accept donations from individuals and corporate donors, and has enlisted the support of several filmmakers including Omoni Oboli (Okafor’s Law), Carol Nguyen (Jump Cuts), Jennifer Baichwal (Manufactured Landscapes), and Deepa Mehta (Anatomy of Violence).
TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey told Variety, “We acknowledge that gender inequity is systemic in the screen industries, so change has to happen at every level. That includes getting more women into key creative roles.”
One of the world’s most prestigious film festivals, TIFF selects 20 films each year to screen in the main competition. Seven of those films were from female directors at the most recent festival — which is significantly higher than the figure at other revered festivals, like Sundance (three of 17) or Cannes (three of 19).
Hollywood’s problem with sexism has been well-documented, notably by female journalists and the women in the film industry who it affects every day. It’s been almost two years since Bachelorette director Leslye Headland told The New York Times that the industry that pulled Colin Trevorrow out of her 2012 Sundance class to make blockbusters was stacked against her.
Yet, in 2016, just 7 percent of the year’s top-grossing films were directed by women. That’s a 2 percent drop from the year before, when the number was at the same place it was in 1998. This has been a comparatively big summer for women in Hollywood, full of encouraging stories like the success of Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman and Lucia Aniello’s Rough Night, Sofia Coppola’s historic win at Cannes for The Beguiled, and buzzy new work from filmmakers like Ana Lily Amirpour, Gillian Robespierre, and Dee Rees.
But in the grand scheme of things, these success stories represent crumbs, and the film industry is generally hostile enough towards women that the ACLU is still mulling various lawsuits against major studios. The best way to fix a problem like this isn’t with tweets about girl power or faux-solidarity from high-profile creatives, but with resources. Fortunately, it looks like one of the world’s biggest film festivals agrees.