Sexism Watch: NY Times Piece on Toronto Docs Includes No Women Directed Films

by Melissa Silverstein
September 6, 2011 4:37 AM
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It's so fascinating how a genre supposedly equally divided between males and females can be made to seem so completely dominated by men. For those people who don't know much about documentaries and the great, amazing women who make films you'd think we lived in a world where only men directed docs...kind of like the feature film business.

In today's NY Times piece previewing the Toronto slate of docs there is not one mention of a female directed film.

When I first saw the list a couple of weeks ago I was disturbed about the lack of female directed films. Only 4 films are directed or co-directed by women out of 23 films. The tone of the Times piece is over the top about Werner Herzog who is a prolific and interesting documentarian and also mentions the Davis Guggenheim film, the Morgan Spurlock film and the Alex Gibney film among others.

The piece talks about how docs are taking on more important issues and are becoming more visible in the culture. Here's the quote from Thom Powers who program the docs at Toronto: “It’s a notable marker of the way in which documentaries are growing in prominence, both at the festival and in the culture." I guess when films become more important in the culture that means that we need men to be out in front.

I don't know how we can get a story about documentaries and not get a single female directed film mentioned. Where is the mention of Jessica Yu's film Last Call at the Oasis? It's about the fact that we are running out of water on this planet and that's a global crisis. Isn't that as important as a film about fans at Comic-Con which is the movie Morgan Spurlock is screening?

It's like the women doc directors don't exist. The lack of females on the bill is shameful -- please don't tell me that there weren't film available, I just don't believe it.

A Bounty of Documentaries at Toronto Festival (NY Times)

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More: Toronto Film Festival, Jessica Yuh Nelson

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  • Therese Shechter | September 6, 2011 7:58 AMReply

    I agree with Chris on the whole "Famous Guy I Know Already" syndrome.

    Also, I wonder what kind of promotion the films are getting, if the festival is pushing some more than others, or if the media darlings and Oscar winners are getting more press. Mind you, aside from being a brilliant filmmaker, isn't Jessica Yu also an Oscar winner?

  • Chris L. | September 6, 2011 7:38 AMReply

    I'm sure sexism is half of it; but fully the other half is Famous Guy I Know Already syndrome, a symptom of Lazy Journalist Disease. He thinks he did Toronto a favor just by mentioning it.

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