NFB Gender Parity Initiative on Target

Marie Clements on the shoot of NFB hit The Road Forward
Courtesy NFB

By Pat Mullen

Forget 50/50! Women in the director’s seat now outpace men at the National Film Board of Canada by nearly ten percent. Kate Taylor at The Globe and Mail reports that the NFB is on target for its goal to achieve gender parity in production by 2020. Taylor says that NFB figures attribute 47% of projects to female directors with projects directed by men clocking in at 38%. The number of projects directed by female-male teams is at 15% up from 5% the previous year. Taylor attributes the pairing of directors to the NFB’s effort to groom more women for the director’s seat.

The NFB has generally been leading the way on inclusion efforts with docs directed by women, including some significant films directed by Indigenous filmmakers and women of colour, making waves on the festival circuit. Recent hits include Alethea Arnaquq-Baril’s Angry Inuk, Tiffany Hsiung’s The Apology, Marie Clements’ The Road Forward, Tasha Hubbard’s Birth of a Family, Céline Baril’s 24 Davids, and Alanis Obomsawin’s Our People Will Be Healed, while Attiya Khan and Larry Jackman’s A Better Man was a festival talking point this past year. The films all drew significant acclaim and awards at festivals in Canada and worldwide. Upcoming projects by women include Samara Chadwick’s 1999, Laura Marie Wayne’s Love, Scott, and NFB co-production What Walaa Wants by Christy Garland.

By contrast, few if any of the feature documentaries pushed by the NFB are directed by men with only Charles Officer’s Unarmed Verses and John Hopkins’ Bluefin seeing much support or life on the festival circuit, while Jean-François Caissy’s First Stripes recently played Berlin and is expected for Hot Docs. Short projects and VR works tend to have even parity when surveying the field of NFB titles and account for many mixed teams. Matthew Rankin’s animated short The Tesla World Light drew raves from Cannes to TIFF and Jay Cardinal’s Holy Angels was an audience favourite at fall festivals, along with women-directed shorts like Torill Kove’s Threads and Chintis Lundgren’s Manivald making waves.

The NFB released additional figures after giving Taylor the scoop, noting that 46% of the NFB’s production budget went to projects by women. The numbers are certainly encouraging as peers push for change in the industry. There remains room for improvement with the NFB’s study noting that women account for 38% of editors, 13% of cinematographers, and 4% of music credits on NFB projects.