Hollywood excludes women film directors: rights group

The ACLU believes government oversight and pressure is needed to resolve the issue

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called Tuesday for government action to confront “widespread exclusion of women directors” in the US film and television industries.

In letters to federal and California state civil rights authorities, it said women directors face “a systematic pattern and practice of discrimination and exclusion” that cannot be allowed to stand.


“Hollywood does not get a free pass when it comes to civil rights,” Melissa Goodman, an ACLU attorney in Los Angeles involved in the campaign, told AFP.

The ACLU -- the nation’s leading civil rights organization -- believes government oversight and pressure is needed to resolve the issue, she said.

The 15-page letters were made public on the eve of the Cannes film festival, when Hollywood’s movers and shakers decamp to the French Riviera for 12 days of deal-making, networking and promotion.

Their call for action follows months of interviews and fact-finding among 50 women directors who, Goodman said, prefer to remain anonymous for now.

“By some estimates, fewer women are working as film and television directors today than there were two decades ago,” the ACLU said in a statement.

In 2014, it said, women accounted for only seven percent of directors on the year’s top 250 grossing films, down two percentage points from 1998.

In television, meanwhile, 70 American network shows -- nearly a third of the total -- employed no women at all to direct any of their episodes.

“The failure to hire women directors in film and television cannot be attributed to a lack of qualified or interested women,” the ACLU argued.

Women are “well represented” at top film schools, and the number of women studying to become directors is “roughly equal” to that of men.

Yet women directors encounter an “intentional and discriminatory failure” by studios, networks and producers to consider or hire from their ranks, the ACLU said in its three letters.

They also run across “sex stereotyping” in hiring and evaluation, with no help from “ineffective programs” that ought to be correcting Hollywood’s gender imbalance.

“Nearly every woman with whom we spoke had either experienced directly or was aware of the widespread perception that women are better suited to and typically only considered for projects that are ‘women-oriented,’ such as romantic comedies, women-centered shows, or, commercials for ‘girl’ products,” the ACLU’s letters said.

At least a dozen women directors, meanwhile, said their careers had stalled after winning festival awards for their first films, while male counterparts went on to do big-budget fare.

Only four women have ever been nominated for an Academy Award for best director and only one has won -- Kathryn Bigelow in 2010 for “The Hurt Locker.”

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