Women march for rights, respect at Toronto film festival

Toronto (Canada) (AFP) –


Nearly 200 men and women, among them Hollywood stars, rallied Saturday outside the Toronto film festival headquarters to call for equal pay and respect for women in film.

Demonstrators shouted, "Women rock!" as they marched amid growing calls in the industry for more women-led storylines and meaty roles, and in the wake of the #MeToo movement brought into the spotlight by the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

Addressing the crowd, "Thelma and Louise" star Geena Davis spoke of the need to make an early start to eliminate gender bias, for example, by ensuring that there are more female characters in children's television shows and movies.

She said she began pushing for this because she felt a need for role models for her own daughter.

"Why are we teaching kids something that we try so hard to get rid of later on? Why are we training them to have unconscious gender bias from the beginning when we know it's so hard to get rid of?" she said.

Actresses Amanda Brugel ("Room," "Handmaid's Tale") and Mia Kirshner, who cofounded the #AfterMeToo campaign, were also on hand calling for people in the film industry to support female voices.

"It's about having everyone stand together and recognize a culture that's unhealthy and toxic and doesn't help anyone," Callum Middleton, a 23-year-old camerawoman from Vancouver who took part, told AFP.

"When we all watch out for each other and create an environment that's respectful for everyone, everyone can have a safe workplace," she said.

Earlier, Toronto International Film Festival boss Cameron Bailey reiterated TIFF's commitment to gender parity in the industry.

The proportion of films by women screened at the festival this year was 35 percent, up slightly from 2017.

There were also 136 female leads.

The festival, meanwhile, set up a hotline for staff, volunteers, guests and audience members, and posted signage around venues highlighting its zero tolerance for harassment or abuse.