Round table in Sitges Film Festival

Alexia Muiños Ruiz
Alexia Muiños Ruiz

"Women in Sci-Fi: From Metropolis to Mad Max"

EWA Network was proud to present the debate "From Metropolis to Mad Max. Kick-ass Women in Sci-Fi and fantasy". The relevance and progression of the female characters in science fiction film and television throughout the 20th & 21st centuries was discussed at the FNAC pavilion, during an events of the 49th FANTASTIC SITGES FILM FESTIVAL.

EWA’s Deputy Director Alexia Muíños set the context of the discussion exposing some meaningful data on women in film and women leading and speaking characters in film. She pointed out that women’s films in the official competition receive many awards, despite the fact that they represent only 10% of the total selection. Last year Sitges winner was Karyn Kusama’s "The Invitation", whilst Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s multiawarded "Evolution" was the closing film. In 2014 the winners of the Méliès d’Argent competition and Special Award of the Jury went for "Good night Mommy" and "The Babadook", both directed by women. Julia Ducourneau’s "Grave" recently won Strasbourg Fantastic Festival.

Some statistics from EWA Network’d Research "Where are the women directors in European Films?" and from CIMA’s 2015 Film report.

The moderator Shelagh Rowan-Legg (PhD in Contemporary Spanish Fantastic & Sci-Fi Film, film critic and Fright Fest programmer) introduced the rest of the panellists. We were delighted to have Evrim Ersoy (Head of programming at Fantastic Fest), Annick Mahnert (Head of acquisitions and festival programmer) and Violeta Kovacsics (film critic) exposing their favourite sci-fi and fantasy films, focusing on those with prominent women on and off screen.

What roles have women played in science fiction film through the course of cinema history? From the exploration of women’s desire in "Metropolis" to becoming warriors like Sarah Connor in "Terminator 2" or Furiosa in "Mad Max:Fury Road", there was a lot to discuss, including following questions : What missions have they been designated to, and how has this changed and developed from the early 20’s? How does science fiction written and/or directed by women differ from science fiction directed by men? How are women of different ethnic backgrounds represented? Who is the audience and what are they willing to see?

The participants concluded that many films directed by women explore and break the codes of genre, extending the limits thematically and aesthetically to a female perception of the world, in a feminine and subversive way. A very interesting debate was produced when the panellists discussed why we could hardly see more than 10% of women’s films in official competitions. The shadow of unconscious bias was passionately discussed with different opinions.

The debate was open to the audience, eager to know more and exchange comments despite the high temperature in the room. Decision makers should start considering that female audiences want to see more films depicting courageous and twisted women.

From left to right: Evrim Ersoy, Shelagh Rowan-Legg, Annick Mahnert and Violeta Kovacsics