As the Berlinale expands its efforts to achieve gender equality, Women and Hollywood founder Melissa Silverstein co-hosted and moderated a discussion about women striving for industry change Saturday at Berlin’s Regent Hotel. The sharp and focused panel of six experienced industry women – creatives, organizers, journalists, festival organizers and activists – welcomed a full house composed of 98% women.
Silverstein welcomed Andrea Riseborough, the star of opening night film “The Kindness of Strangers,” on stage. The actress’ Mother Sucker Prods. co-sponsored the event.
Riseborough was surrounded by the Toronto Intl. Film Festival’s executive director and co-head Joanna Vincente, co-founder of Le Deuxieme Regard Berenice Vincent, South African writer-director Jenna Bass, whose feature “Flatland” is at the festival, and British Blacklist creator Akua Gyamfi.
Silverstein introduced the central question: “How are women in the industry pushing for change?” Other topics that arose were how much progress has been made, what expansion strategies exist – and how can women accept and learn from inevitable mistakes that happen along the way.
Bass said: “Whether you intend for art to be political or not, it will be … rather than ignore that I choose to embrace it. ‘Flatland’ is engaged in the discourse around gender politics. A lot of focus has been on the end product but I realized how much of our time is involved in the process…. I am as interested in what experiences I can provide with who I collaborate, how payment is structured and the crew’s diversity. I’m emphasizing the process and what’s the film is about.”
In this receptive setting, Riseborough let her radical flag fly. With her Mother Sucker Prods., she is increasing her producing efforts, which began with the 2018 thriller “Nancy,” directed by Asian-American Christina Choe in her feature debut.
Riseborough said, “A huge part of the reason I started my company was that I felt so uncomfortable in film. As a theater actor I felt so alienated. I didn’t feel any of my film characters were whole people. My success was almost my downfall. There are equality problems across the board but film is a real manifestation of the patriarchy in action.”
“Nancy” wasn’t easy for the British actress, who proudly declared the indie “wrapped early almost every day.” What she found really valuable was that “you feel onscreen the energy generated by the women behind the camera. Some men have said: that’s terribly sexist.” She shrugged this off, proud that the project served as a launch pad for the career of the director and the director of photography, among others.
“It was effective getting women in power on a very tiny scale,” she said.
Joining the other participants in addressing moderator Silverstein’s question about mistakes along the way, Riseborough concluded: “It’s great to talk about the mistakes and what doesn’t work because revolutions are always on a shoestring. Let go of the shame of it not being perfect. Actually, why not take pride in it? Why not be revolutionary?”