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NFB to dedicate half its production dollars to films by female directors

Last Updated Mar 8, 2016 at 6:14 pm EDT

VANCOUVER – The National Film Board of Canada says at least half of its productions will be directed by women within three years.

And NFB head Claude Joli-Coeur says female directors will get half of the board’s production budget by 2019.

Joli-Coeur vowed to usher in complete gender parity while speaking at the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival.

He says he hopes the NFB can “lead the way for the industry as a whole.”

Half of this year’s spending already goes to projects with female directors, but Joli-Coeur notes that can fluctuate from year to year.

The federal agency boasts a strong stable of female filmmakers: Sarah Polley’s intensely personal feature “Stories We Tell” is considered the NFB’s most popular theatrical documentary of all time, while Torill Kove is an Oscar-winner for her animated short “The Danish Poet,” and documentary maker Mina Shum is riding acclaim for her latest feature, “Ninth Floor.”

“There have been good years and lean years for women’s filmmaking at the NFB. No more,” Joli-Coeur added in a release issued Tuesday.

“Today, I’m making a firm, ongoing commitment to full gender parity, which I hope will help to lead the way for the industry as a whole.”

In the current 2015-16 fiscal year, the NFB says 43.4 per cent of all production spending will go to films directed by women, while 43.5 per cent is slated for films directed by men. Another 11.3 per cent will go to a mixed team, while 1.8 per cent has not yet been allocated.

That’s up from the previous year, when spending was at 41.7 per cent for women, versus 47.8 per cent for men.

Female-directed projects in the works include Kove’s next animated short, “Threads”; Zayne Akyol’s “Terre de Roses, Mon Nom Est Gulistan”; Marie Clements’s “The Road Forward”; Ann Marie Fleming’s feature animation “Window Horses”; Tiffany Hsiung’s “The Apology”; and Anjali Nayar’s “Gun Runners.”

Joli-Coeur, government film commissioner and NFB chairman, says 17 English-language feature documentaries are in production or on the verge of release — 13 are directed or co-directed by women, four are directed by indigenous women and three are directed or co-directed by women of colour.

Next year includes 48 English-language projects, 35 of them directed or co-directed by women.

“Yet the fact remains that, in 2016, we’re still, as an industry, having this conversation about women being fully represented, on screen, off screen and in key industry positions,” Joli-Coeur said in prepared remarks released to the media.

“Personally, I find the lack of representation unacceptable, given the amazing talent that exists.”

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