Award-winning film director Jenna Bass boycotted the Silwerskerm film festival screening this week as she felt that a naked image being used as a marketing campaign at the innovative festival was challenging her personally as a woman. By Ntombizodwa Makhoba
She described the poster as offensive and a misinterpretation of women.
This week, angry women took to social media expressing their views on how the four-day film festival held at The Bay Hotel in Cape Town had lost it.
The image in question is of a naked woman with a movie scene in place of a head.
"I am very disappointed because before the poster was approved it passed many people and they failed to rectify it. The dialogue is clear - as women, we are tired of being portrayed as faceless. This year we should be having conversations about transformation in the film industry," Bass said.
This was after she posted on social media: "Dear Silwerskerm, you may not market my name or my gender like this."
Inxeba producer Cait Pansegrouw shared the same sentiment with Bass. She also accused the festival of being exploitative.
"This is really sad, especially after the #MeToo campaign movement. It is disturbing that the person who approved [the poster] didn't see anything wrong, but was convinced that the image represents a woman. I got the shock of my life when I saw the poster for the first time," she said.
She added that the poster had created unnecessary stress and strain to women film makers who showcased their amazing work.
"It [the poster] took attention from their work. Now they are obligated to participate in this conversation instead of enjoying their work," Pansegrouw said.
The Silwerskerm team wrote in a statement that "the intention of this campaign was not to offend or degrade any woman working in the film industry with the Silwerskerm festival poster, but debate around the poster is healthy and encouraged by the festival.
"The Silwerskerm film festival is committed to the empowerment of women and diversity in the media industry. The decision to use this image, which was designed by a female creative team, was taken by a predominantly female executive team from diverse backgrounds, many of whom had to overcome gender-based discrimination in their careers," festival organisers said in the statement.
The statement pointed out that it was unfortunate that the image was interpreted as objectification and disempowerment by some.
However, producer David Horler, who is vocal about gender issues, distanced himself from this campaign: "There is so much work to be done to create a space in our society that feels safe, honest, respectful, inclusive and fair for gender and women in particular. This campaign appears directly opposed to these ideas."