The Cinema Eye Honors for Non Fiction Filmmaking have announced their 2013 nominees for outstanding achievements in documentary filmmaking. We were troubled to note that their Audience Choice Prize has no female nominees this year. This is more than troubling in a year where there was no shortage of terrific documentaries directed by women (a list we compiled here).
Curious to find out the motivations and the voting process on the films, Women and Hollywood reached out to Cinema Eye. We received a response from co-chairs and filmmakers Esther Robinson and AJ Schnack. Both were surprised by the lack of women nominated this year, especially since the award in the last two years has gone to women, Cindy Meehl for Buck and Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg for Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. They gave us more information about the voting process and the nominating committee.
...we are also very committed to a consistent and transparent voting process and we are committed to examining any biases that process might surface.
In this regard, the Audience Choice list is part of the normal procedure we use, a procedure that in past years that has yielded different results. So although we were surprised by the make-up of the final list, we looked at the past results and determined that it wasn't a bias in the voting system but merely a weird fluke of this year's vote.
Regarding the process, Audience Choice is determined strictly by votes of our nominating committee, which is made up of more women than men. For more helpful context, nearly all of our boards, juries and core team at Cinema Eye are either completely gender neutral or have more women than men. This is a reflection of our desire to accurately represent the documentary community and is a natural outgrowth of the fact that we have far more parity in the documentary field than our fictional counterparts.
So using this rationale, the women on the committee did not vote for a single woman directed film to be on this list. Could it be that the women -- and I guess some of them were documentary filmmakers -- did not think that a single woman made a film worthy of making it onto this list? How can that be possible? I also believe -- and I know I am way out on this -- that organizations and awards have an obligation to be diverse. I'm not saying there should be a quota, but how can all the people sititing in that room many of them women not realize that they have not picked a single female directed film. It's not like it would be hard to figure out a female directed film or two or three to be included on this list.
I'd love to hear from the women who participated in this selection. Maybe it is a fluke. But it is worthy of noting.
The ceremony will take place on January 9th at the Museum of Moving Image.
I know that there are other categories at Cinema Eye that have women directors. We covered that back when the nominations were released. This piece is just an observation on the audience category. And again, the point is not to fulfill a quota. With documentaries there is hardly a need for a quota since there are so many made by women. That is why I am surprised that a list like this even exists.
AJ Schnack, the Cinema Eye Honors Co-Chair, responded to the piece and clarified some info that I was sent about the process of how the list got picked:
Please note that our nominating committees do not jury together and come up with consensus choices. They vote individually, without knowledge of how their other colleagues are voting. There could be no "quota" under this system, and in fact any kind of enforced diversity is antithetical to everything we stand for at Cinema Eye. Also, our nominating committee does not consist of filmmakers, it consists of top documentary programmers from around the world. A list is available on our website.
Here are the list of nominators
For the 2012 Honors, the feature film nominations committee was chaired by Sean Farnel (Hot Docs) and included the following members: Meira Blaustein (Woodstock), Heather Croall (Sheffield), Joanne Feinberg (Ashland), Tine Fischer (CPH:DOX), Elena Fortes (Morelia/Ambulante), Ben Fowlie (Camden), Tom Hall (Sarasota/Newport), Doug Jones (Los Angeles), Amir Labaki (It’s All True), Grit Lemke (Dok Leipzig), Arthur Libehart (Planete Doc Review), Caroline Libresco (Sundance), Veton Nurkollari (Dokufest Kosovo), Janet Pierson (SXSW), Rachel Rosen (San Francisco), Charlotte Selb (RIDM), Sky Sitney (Silverdocs), Sadie Tillery (Full Frame), David Wilson (True/False) and Brit Withey (Denver)
I don't believe there is some grand conspiracy at work here. Far from it. The lovely comments from Esther and AJ made it clear they were perplexed too. In a way I am glad that they were not sitting together, but I stand by my thoughts that I think it is bizarre that no women directed films made it to that particular list.