Doc Watcher Chris Campbell’s Male Perspective on The Female Gaze

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It’s good that word about IDFA’s The Female Gaze program is spreading, and that attention to the issued raised is being drawn from all quarters. Even from the minds of men.

Christopher Campbell, who covers documentaries at, has written an interesting report and commentary focusing on one important aspect of The Femsle Gaze discussion — that is whether the filmmaking industry — or to be more specific, the documentary film industry — requires the use of a Bechdel Test to establish equal opportunity.

The proposal for a Bechdel Test, put forth by Debra Zimmerman of Women Make Movies during The Female Gaze panel presentation at IDFA 2014, stimulated extensive debate among those who were present, not only about whether establishing a quota system would provide a viable solution to the current disparity — or not — but also about what — exactly — the notion of equal opportunity encompasses.

Does equality mean that 50 percent of available funding should be designated for women’s projects? That at least 50 percent of films programmed at festivals should be directed by women? That 50 percent of a festival’s programmers be women? That 50 percent of films broadcast on television must be directed by women? That 50 percent of funders and commissioning editors be women? And so forth? And how would the quota system extend to other important movie making jobs and skill sets — such as cinematography, editing and sound design, for example — and apply to other movie industry occupations and interests?

The range of Bechdel Test opinions expressed by the women attending the session, be they panelists, speakers or audience members, varied widely. Some felt a Bechdel Test to be essential, a matter of immediate necessity. Others felt that a quota system should be established and applied over time. And still others expressed the notion that quotas favoring women might discredit to some degree the inherent value and accomplishment of women’w work in film — that there might be the lingering thought that some women’s project were only green lit because they filled quota requirements.

There are a lot of contradictory points of view here instead of a constant and consistent Female Gaze. There is a lot of room for discussion that, at this point, seems essential. Please continue to speak up! We all acknowledge the problem. Let’s reach some sort of consensus about a strategy for resolving it. Feel free to express your thoughts via The Female Gaze blog.

Men must not be excluded from the conversation. They must be invited to be part of the solution. But, there may be some differences of opinion about that, too.

Actually very few men attended The Female Gaze panel presentation and none were present at the very productive round table discussions held the following day. Christopher Campbell wasn’t at IDFA, but his second hand reporting about the Bechdel Test discussion is fairly accurate and his post raises some perceptive and challenging points from his male perspective. And, it is good to know that men are taking notice of The Female Gaze initiative.

Read what Chris Campbell has to say here, and respond, should you feel inclined to so so, with your own commentary on The Female Gaze blog.

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