The St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival is recognized as a respected leader in the Canadian movement for gender diversity in the industry.
There is a well documented gender imbalance in the North American film and television industry and women are still significantly under-represented, especially in positions of creative and financial authority. This inequity has negative implications not only for the industries involved and the employment pool for those industries, but for society as a whole. Fewer women employed as directors or writers directly correlates to more stereotypical portrayals of women characters in these projects. The St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival was launched in 1989 in response to this phenomenon.
The Festival regularly partners with local and national women’s organizations and advocacy groups. From 2012-2015, we hosted the launch of the annual Women in View on Screen Report. These reports provide year-over-year snapshots, looking at the representation of women and racialized minorities in the previous year’s major Canadian feature films and television series. The results illustrate how women continue to be vastly under-represented as directors, screenwriters and cinematographers. Women in View is a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to strengthening gender and cultural diversity in Canadian media both on-screen and behind the scenes.
In 2014 as a part of our 25th anniversary celebrations, SJIWFF partnered with Women in View to present the St. John’s Summit on Women in Media, the first national gathering of women’s media organizations and unions from across the country. Fourteen leaders joined, representing over 40,000 professional members of Canada’s film and television industry. The Summit resulted in these delegates developing strategies and policies to address gender disparity in Canada’s screen industries. The final Communiqué of Summit Recommendations called on the government to explicitly promote the principle that the equitable employment of women and racialized minorities in audiovisual products benefits both genders and all cultural groups, and is vital to achieving genuine diversity. The Summit’s communique was cited as one of the catalysts for the 50/50 parity goals recently set by major national film funders and broadcasters.
In 2017, the Festival launched a Feminist Youth Ambassador program. With a focus on prioritizing voices of young women and marginalized individuals, this outreach program provides travel and accommodation support to a young woman from rural Newfoundland & Labrador, along with and her parent/guardian, to be our special guests at the Festival. The goal is to make our work and the films we share more accessible and to empower, encourage and support the next generation of young women. This new program serves as a way for us to further learn from and connect with youth across the province and help us better serve their needs.