Lack of women directors at the 76th Venice Film Festival’s Line-up

Alexia Muiños Ruiz
Alexia Muiños Ruiz

Venice film festival features renowned auteurs but still lacks female directors.

Only 2 out of 21 films competing for the Golden Lion have female directors whereas women's presence has subtly increased in the sidebar sections of the world's oldest film festival.

Over the past few years, Venice has succeeded in premiering major Oscar winners and contenders but has failed in finding women-directed films, since only Vivian Qu's Angels wear white in 2017 and Jennifer Kent's Nightingale in 2018 were selected in the official competition. Kent's film not without suffering sexist insults.

And it has happened again, despite the festival has been on the spotlight after last year's turmoil due to the shortage of women while top-tier festivals commited to the pledge for gender equality.

We had hoped that things would change but only two female directors made the grade. A scanty 9.5% of the films announced so far (2 out of 21 in the Official Competition) are directed by women.

However, the festival is making room for the third film by Haifaa Al Mansour, who received accolades for her debut Wadjda, the first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia and the first feature-length film made by a female Saudi director.

Her second film was an English-driven  international co-production, the romantic period-drama Mary Shelley, which premiered in Toronto.


Haifaa Al-Mansour


Director  Haifaa Al Mansour
Main Cast  Mila Alzahrani, Dhay, Nourah Al Awad, Khalid Abdulrhim

Saudi Arabia, Germany / 101’

Alongside Roy Andersson, Kore-eda Hirokazu, Pablo Larraín,  James Grey, Atom Egoyan, Roman  Polanski, Soderbergh and Olivier Assayas, the festival will also premiere the feature directorial debut of  Shannon Murphy.

An actress and director was raised in Hong Kong, Singapore, Africa and Australia, Murphy has already established herself as one of Australia's leading directors.  Her previous credits include TV dramas Sisters (2017),  Eaglehawk (2016) and  Offspring (2010).

Shannon Murphy


Director  Shannon Murphy
Main Cast  Eliza Scanlen, Toby Wallace, Essie Davis, Ben Mendelsohn / Australia / 120’

Out of competition:  3 films out of 17


VIVERE (To Live) by Francesca Archibugi

Non fiction :

THE KINGMAKER by Lauren Greenfeld

CITIZEN ROSSI by Didi Gnocchi, Carolina Rosi

ORIZZONTI: 4 films out of 19

The international competition, dedicated to films that represent the latest aesthetic and expressive trends in international cinema, increases the presence of women to 21%

Directed by  Nunzia De Stefano, an actress known for Dogman and Ora o Mai

Country: Italy


Directed by Katrin Gebbe  known for Tore tanzt (2013), The Field Guide to Evil (2018) and Sores & Sîrîn (2009). A co-production between Germany and Bulgaria


A French production directed by Jessica Palud, formerly an assistant director whose debut film Les yeux fermés was released in 2013 .


Directed by Sahraa Karimi, the first woman from Afghanistan to have received a PhD degree in the field of Cinema. She has about 30 short fictions and documentary films in her filmography,


Venice Critics’ Week:

With three films directed by women out of seven, Critics' Week is near to parity (43%)

Seven films will compete for the Grand Prize Venice International Film Critics’ Week and the Audience Award in the Venice sidebar.

Psychosia (Den-Fin)
An extremely erotic psychological thriller, according to Venice Critics’ Week’s General Delegate is a Denmark and Finland co-production which participated in ScriptLab 2016. It is the debut of Marie Grahtø, a two-time Danish Academy Award Robert nominee

Rare Beasts (UK)
The directorial debut of British stage and screen actress Billie Piper about a struggling young writer and mother who comes from a dysfunctional family and falls upon a troubled man

Scales (UAE-Saud - Iraq)
Directed by Saudi Arabian Shahad Ameen, this thought-provoking fantasy follows a young girl trying to find her place in society



Another sidabar section with greater female representation, with 3 films out of 10.

Lingua Franca (US-Phil) by Isabel Sandoval

A Bigger World (Fra-Bel) by  Fabienne Berthaud
Intl sales: WaZabi Films

The Long Walk (Laos-Esp-Sing) by Mattie Do
Intl sales: 108 Media