Austin Film Festival Puts Diversity First

Writer-focused fest plans to amplify more unheard voices

Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird, one of the films at Austin Film Festival 2017 that emphasized women in front and behind the camera

From mega-franchises like Star Wars to the smallest indie projects, diversity and representation have become the keywords in contemporary cinema culture. As the Austin Film Festival enters its 25th year, the writer-focused fest has recommitted to its program to bring traditionally overlooked artists center stage.

Increasingly, the focus in the diversity debate has been on gatekeepers, such as festival bookers and programmers. AFF made a commitment to add seats to the table in 2017 through its Diversity Focus Program, giving a platform for women, minorities, and LGBTQ creatives: groups who have often been afforded minimal or token participation at many festivals.

Recommitting to its diversity program, this morning AFF Executive Director Barbara Morgan said this was about “our responsibility of challenging the status quo. In addition to serving up a program steeped with diverse viewpoints and approaches, the Diversity Focus Program also provides a platform for underrepresented artists from all over the world to be heard, to have access, and to add their voices to the fabric of the industry’s future."

The festival hopes that its track record for 2017 will speak for itself. The schedule gave a platform for award-bound filmmakers like Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird), Helen Whitney (Into the Night: Portraits of Life and Death), Michael del Monte (Transformer), and Virgil Williams (Mudbound) who either represented diversity themselves, or told stories that represented diverse communities. That extended to the discussions and conversations, with 50% female and minority panelists, meaning 80% of all panels featured some degree of diversity.

As for the gatekeepers themselves, 48% of industry judges and 60% of readers for the screenplay competition were female, and 44% of finalist scripts included a credit for a female writer.

There is still a long way to go to reach true equity, but it's commitments like this, and real metrics, that could start leveling the long-tilted playing field.


Austin Film Festival runs Oct. 25-Nov. 1, 2018. For more info, visit www.austinfilmfestival.com.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Austin Film Festival
Gary Hart Biopic <i>The Front Runner</i> to Close Austin Film Festival
AFF Announces Second Wave
New films by Yorgos Lanthimos, Asghar Farhadi added to fest

Richard Whittaker, Sept. 12, 2018

AFF to Honor Larry Wilmore
AFF to Honor Larry Wilmore
Festival celebrates long impact of writer and comedian

Richard Whittaker, Aug. 28, 2018

More by Richard Whittaker
Fantastic Fest Interview: A <i>Piercing</i> Conversation With Nicolas Pesce
FF 2018: Nicolas Pesce on Piercing
Why are we all so attracted to serial killers?

Sept. 20, 2018

Fantastic Fest Interview: Jim Hosking Spends <i>An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn</i>
FF 2018: An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn
British filmmaker goes from greasy weirdness to oddball rom-com

Sept. 20, 2018

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Austin Film Festival, Austin Film Festival 2018, AFF, Austin filmmakers, Diversity, Barbara Morgan

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle