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Women Directors Make Their Mark on Italy’s 66th David Awards Despite Drawbacks

·3-min read

Italy’s David di Donatello Awards historically have been dominated by men in the key best picture, film, and producer categories. And this year is no exception.

All told, out of a total of 145 movies vying for the top Italian film prizes 17 are directed by women, which amounts to a mere 12%.

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Women account for roughly 30% of the 1,578 voters for the Davids, which throughout their 66-year history have never seen a woman score the best director statuette. And that percentage marks a definite improvement over past editions.

Sadly significant fact: Lina Wertmuller – who in 1975 became the first woman nominated for a best director Oscar for “Seven Beauties” – has never been nominated for a David. That says a lot. Though Wertmuller was honored with a career David in 2010.

On the bright side, this year there are two women directors (out of five competing) in all of the prizes’ main categories.

Susanna Nicchiarelli’s “Miss Marx,” a biopic of Karl Marx’s ill-fated protofeminist daughter Eleanor, and prominent playwright Emma Dante’s Sicily-set ensemble drama “The Macaluso Sisters” are both nominated for best film and best director Davids.

And two female filmmakers have scored noms in the first-time director category: Ginevra Elkann for divorce dramedy “If Only” and Alice Filippi for teen romcom “Out of My League.”

Women directors also pulled a double whammy in the Davids documentary category with noms for prematurely passed away Valentina Pedicini’s “Faith,” about power dynamics within a reclusive spiritual sect of kung fu practitioners, and Francesca Mazzoleni’s “Punta Sacra,” about the inhabitants of a shantytown near Rome at the mouth of the Tiber.

“If you are an aspiring female film director and you look at these nominations, they give you some hope,” says Domizia De Rosa, president of Women in Film, Television & Media Italia, who also points out that “the disparity between men and women directors in the Italian industry” remains a major problem.

De Rosa also notes the “constant” crucial deficiency that also emerges from this year’s Davids which is: “The more the budget for films goes up, the less space there is for women directors.”

If you look at the country’s cinematic output in 2020 “what characterizes the Italian industry is it’s really rare to find a big-budget movie, and also one with international ambitions, directed by a woman,” De Rosa notes.

In this respect this year’s entries competing for Davids are the few happy exceptions. “Miss Marx” is a relatively costly English-language costumer, produced by a team lead by a woman, Vivo Film co-chief Marta Donzelli, who is nominated for a best producer David for this film. Both “Marx” and “Macaluso Sisters” have traveled widely after launching from the 2020 Venice Film Festival.

Both titles debunk “Italian producers’ preconceptions of what a film directed by a woman should be,” says De Rosa. “They are films with plenty of gravitas that dispel the notion that women could only make either wispy intimate auteur films or frivolous commercial works,” she adds. They provide poignant examples that young women directors can point to when they go pitch their projects to producers.

Producers, or course, have the power to help balance the gender gap. So it’s somewhat encouraging that in February Italy’s expanding Groenlandia — the shingle behind ITV’s “Romulus” skein and recent Netflix Italian original film, male-directed “The Incredible Story of Rose Island,” which is among Davids frontrunners, launched Italy’s first female-driven label, called Lynn, dedicated to women directors and writers. Hopefully it will provide another cog in the wheel to help women get more traction.

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