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As I was watching the Academy Awards just a little over a week ago, it struck me yet again just how vast the discrepancies are in how the media represents gender. While the pre-show coverage of the red carpet arrivals is devoted primarily to admiring how the women are dressed and coiffed, the actual ceremony itself featured very few women actually accepting awards. In fact, only one of the nine Best Picture nominees this year was directed by a woman, and there were very few women nominated in the majority of the prestigious behind-the-scenes categories like Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Editor, or Best Cinematographer. In the 85 year history of the Academy Awards, only one woman has ever won Best Director and only four have ever been nominated. The focus on women’s fashion during the red carpet portion of the evening juxtaposed with their lack of actual nominations at the most prestigious film event of the year only reinforces the idea that, especially in the film industry, women are often seen as more valuable for their aesthetic achievements rather than for their artistic contributions to the medium.

That’s why we thought it was important to use March, which also happens to be Women’s History Month and the month in which we celebrate International Women’s Day, as an opportunity to discuss, dissect, educate ourselves and ultimately celebrate women’s contributions to the past, present and future of film.

We’ll look at why, when women make up 51% of the population, they make up only 17% of Canadian filmmakers (18% in the US) and talk to some ladies who are trying to increase that number with ambitious and inspirational projects of their own.

On the history side of the issue, we’ll revisit the career of Lina Wertmüller, the first women ever nominated for an Oscar and we’ll honour Toronto’s own Mary Pickford who was not only one of the co-founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but was also one of the very first film moguls and one of the most popular film actresses of her time.

Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks hoist the sign for their studio lot which stills stands today on Santa Monica Blvd. in Los Angeles

Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks hoist the sign for their studio lot which still stands today on Santa Monica Blvd. in Los Angeles.

I can also guarantee that you’ll have a great time reading the TFS writers’ various musings on everything from female buddy films to why wedding movies have become a thing to chick flicks that guys might actually enjoy. We also discuss some of the best female characters written by men and conversely, some of the worst female characters written by women on top of our sure-to-please look at the top smokin’ babes in Canadian film.

Finally, there will be lots of food for thought and chance for discussion as we touch on faux feminism in film, why films went from being primarily targeted at the female demographic to being made for the teenage male, and what happens when a film is made with the “female gaze” in mind (and which film is one of the very few to actually be shot from that vantage point? Tune in later this month to find out!).

Many may ask why it’s important that we have a month wherein we specifically celebrate women in film, or women in general – it’s a fair question. For me, lauding the accomplishments and contributions of women in a still male-dominated industry is a way to acknowledge and remember just how far women have come since the first film was produced in the late nineteenth century, before women even had the right to vote, adequate education or career opportunities.

This is also a month to remember just how far we still have to go because quite frankly, 17% is a pretty sad number. I’m confident we can turn it around though, and maybe just the act of talking about the subject in depth will inspire more Canadian women to get out there and tell their stories. I know I’ll be watching when they do.

Happy Reading and see you at the movies,

Kristal Cooper