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Inside Out Review: ‘Half the Picture’ Brings to Light the Challenges Faced by Female Filmmakers, and How the Industry Can Do Better

June 3, 2018Ferdosa Abdi

Half the Picture is a must-see documentary because it shines a spotlight on the challenges women directors face in the filmmaking industry. The documentary doesn't force-feed you every statistic under the sun in regards to the gender disparity. Instead, it reminds you that there are real people behind the statistics. These are women who dared to chase their passions, facing rejection, humiliation and a mountain of problems in the process.

Helmed by Amy Adrion, the documentary focuses on the current EEOC investigation into the discriminatory practices in the entertainment industry, and on what can be accomplished with this investigation and any subsequent legal actions that can be taken to close the gender gap. Adrion speaks with a variety of women filmmakers — including Ava DuVernay, Jill Soloway and Catherine Hardwicke — to illustrate how the industry got to this current position. By providing these women with a platform to speak about their experiences you get a better understanding how toxic this industry is, and who is at the center of it all.

These female directors were introduced to filmmaking in various ways and got to where they are today through various different paths. They are driven and inspiring, as they tackle seemingly insurmountable odds to tell the stories they want to tell. Like their male counterparts, there is no limit to their vision and abilities, however, every day they are forced to go head-to-head with entrenched patriarchal practices within the industry.

Adrion cleverly includes questions that have these women address the many myths surrounding their gender's ability to direct films or television. From lack of experience to genre work to supporting families, these women prove that, like their male counterparts, they can and will do what they have to do. However, there are societal pressures and personal decisions that do affect some women — the keyword being some. The industry is quick to generalize all women directors and will disregard and neglect them simply to uphold the status quo. This isn't just a problem for filmmakers.

Adrion also addresses a range of issues, some that go beyond who is operating the camera. She addresses the issue of who is criticizing and shaping the conversation around films and television. Film criticism is overwhelmingly dominated by white, straight men, who contribute to the gender disparity behind the camera. On numerous occasions, the stories women want to tell are not received well, because those who are critiquing it cannot relate. This affects distribution and box office, which is extremely detrimental to all women directors. If one fails, they all pay the price.

Half the Picture illustrates that these arbitrary rules women are forced to adhere to are just that, arbitrary. Women can direct any genre of film and tell any kind of story. Women can direct action, comedy, romance, drama, documentaries and so much more.

Half the Picture screened Saturday, May 26th at the Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 34 min.

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