Seeking Gender Parity at Sundance

for Shondaland

“If a man has a hit film at Sundance, he’ll be directing another within 18 months. If a woman has a hit film, she’ll be directing another film in maybe, maybe six years.” I turned my eyes from the stage where film producer Cassian Elwes (Mudbound, The Butler) was speaking into the microphone, at the 5th Annual Horizon Award ceremony at the Sundance Film Festival. The large room was jammed, and all eyes were on Elwes, one of the three co-founders of the festival’s Horizon Award for up-and-coming female directors. None of the women in the room seemed surprised by the statistic he’d just paraphrased; it’s something they know all too intimately. I jotted it down anyway, wondering if it could really be correct. (It was.)

As the women around me whooped and cheered for Caroline Friend and Zenzele Niambi Ojore who won Horizon Awards for their short films, Under Darkness and The South Is My Sister’s Skin respectively, the atmosphere was one of fierce support mixed with undeniable frustration. Why is this award even necessary? Why is the inequality still so persistent? Despite having gone to Sundance with the specific intention of covering this issue, I was stunned by what Elwes said. (continued)

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