Sarajevo’s CineLink ponders “Imagining a Radically New Way to Curate and Review”
by Kaleem Aftab
- The session, moderated by Pinball London producer Paula Vaccaro, looked at how film programmers and film reviewers are joining forces to support a shift in power
If gatekeeping begins with festivals and reviewers, how can we demand that selections understand intersectionality and a plurality of voices? This was one of the questions pondered by panellists Kaleem Aftab, Cineuropa’s UK Correspondent, Faridah Gbadamosi, writer, producer and filmmaker; Elma Tataragić, scriptwriter and curator; and Bedatri Choudhury, writer and curator, at an online panel during Sarajevo Film Festival's CineLink Industry Days entitled "Imagining a Radically New Way to Curate and Review”, which looked at how BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of colour) film programmers and film reviewers are joining forces to support a shift in power.
The session began with the panellists talking about obstacles in the industry stopping them from doing the work that they want to do. Choudhury pointed to a new report which said that male film critics still far outnumber female critics and that critics of colour remain dramatically underrepresented. She added, “Because I’m from South Asia, I get cornered into writing about South Asian films, so I have to convince editors that I can write about other films.”
Aftab spoke about the barriers to entry and the barriers of capitalism, which dictate that clickbait or stories which can lead directly to advertising are given a higher value than reporting on films that have more cultural importance.
Gbadamosi said, “One of the problems is that a lot of film scholarship is based on white male film pedagogy, whereas my background is TV, and a lot of that is not valued. That’s why my biography always starts with ‘culture obsessed’. I want people to see that films are not bad per se, but good for a different audience.”
Choudhury said, ‘There needs to be a complete reappraisal of standards. We have to change the definition of what constitutes the perfect review. We cannot have the same standards that have been historically rejecting women, people of colour, and queer people.”
Gbadamosi added that change could happen by “changing who is gatekeeping. You can try to get someone to change their culture, but it’s easier to switch them for someone who already has that cultural understanding.”
Tataragić backed this up by saying that, “total shift is a crucial factor, not just in how we talk about films, but also how we make films.”
Aftab said that changing the paradigm of the white male critic still remains a major issue, but that this has been challenged by the rise of digital technology, with “streamers looking for global content, realising that local is global.” He lambasted the term “cancel culture”, arguing that it is being used to stop a more comprehensive appraisal of the past that questions who gets to tell which stories.
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