By Ciara Long, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The national cinema agency of Brazil, ANCINE, published findings last Thursday (March 30th) showing that the country’s film and television industries are dominated by white men. Data showed that in recent years, contrary to expectations, female participation in Brazil’s film and television industries had diminished.
ANCINE’s survey found that of the 2,583 audiovisual works registered in 2016, just 21 percent has female scriptwriters and only 17 percent had female directors. Of the women working in these industries, 58 percent were art directors, 41 percent were producers and just eight percent were directors of photography.
The data from 2015 showed slightly higher participation rates: 23 percent of productions had female scriptwriters and 19 percent had female directors. The dip in last year’s statistics is indicative of the industry’s normal fluctuations with gender diversity and participation: in 2012, women directed 24 percent of all productions, but just 10 percent in 2014.
ANCINE found that participation of black women in these roles was exceptionally low. Research from UERJ’s Affirmative Action Multidisciplinary Study Group (GEMAA) showed that there were no black female scriptwriters or directors between 1995 and 2016. Over the same period, black men were directors for just 2 percent of films and scriptwriters for just 3 percent.
“[The data] lead us to understand that the construction of the narratives, which come from writers and directors, no matter how much the producers participate, is of men,” ANCINE’s director Debora Invanov told local media when she presented the data last week. Adding, “The look that will construct the imaginary of our society and new generations, is masculine.”
This also had an implication with casting: GEMAA’s research found that in Brazil’s highest grossing films, just one woman of color appeared on screen for every 37 white men. Political scientist and researcher Marcia Rangel Candido said that the lack of black female representation on-screen meant that characters were often “pro-organization, stereotyped, hyper-sexualized”.
Women, and particularly women of color, found more opportunities in short and medium feature films, web-series and documentaries, where production costs and budgets are smaller. The higher any productions budget, the less likely it was to have women or women of color in roles like scriptwriter or director.
This month, the Ministry of Culture will give funding to proposals for fifteen short films by women, through the Audiovisual Secretariat. But speakers at the event felt there was more progress to be made.
“We have an urgent need for change and public policies do not move at this speed,” said Janaína Oliveira, historian and director of the Black Cinema Itinerant Forum, to local media. “We [black women] cannot be 24 percent of the population and not be represented.”