Pic: Speakers Bridget Minamore and Isaura Barbé-Brown at The Feminist's Guide To Love: 'The Whitewash Of Romance' Talk at The BFI.
Women may be big in the cinema programming game, but people of colour are the scarce chocolate chip on this giant cookie.
Conferences serve as the butterfly net of the cinema business and parade its demographic profile which is very, very white and when I see a fellow black person in the conference coffee queue I wonder if they too are on the diversity panel.
I'm always honoured to be invited to speak on panels, but feel an enormous responsibility being asked to comment on how to reach diverse and feminist audiences as if there's a secret pied piper tune I know the notes to. One answer, as journalist and programmer Ashley Clark shrugged in his Bamboozed intro last year at the Ritzy; 'just hire more people'.
Diverse programming comes naturally to people who are classed as 'diverse' but we don't want to only be wheeled out for panels or the odd commission to lament on being in the skin we're in; we want to wade in on the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death or be asked if Orson Welles really is all that. We want full time jobs, in big time positions and a chance at calling the shots.
Fear of Feminism is a Thing
My feminist conscious was being tuned from an early age. I knew who Germaine Greer was way before I bought The Spice Girls album and 'feminism' was never a scary or ambiguous word. Naively, I thought this was standard, but now I see how many shy away from feminism contexts, and I'm not talking about men or people who are outright sexist. I'm talking liberal minded, intelligent people who aren't yet comfortable calling themselves a feminist despite honouring the values.
I realised this when a friend declined to come to a BTF event despite screening one of her favorite films. She thought it would be 'too intelligent'. Perhaps she thought the feminist undertones of our otherwise very giddy sold out screening of Magic Mike would wrench the fun out of what would otherwise be a gratuitous Channing Tatum carnival.
Feminism is a political subject and politics isn't everyone's idea of fun times, but it's sad to think we're losing bums on seats because they feel it will be too intellectual or a guise to lure them into a bra burning cult.
The same goes for men. We love men, particularly ones that come to BTF events, but it startling to be asked if men are 'allowed' or can volunteer. Yes. Always. From day one some of our biggest cheerleaders have been men and I can genuinely say that's not just because they're on the pull.
I keep this in mind every time I program an event and aim to strike a balance between empowered, entertaining and welcoming to all.