Gender Equality & Diversity in the German Film Industry: A Conversation with Pro Quote Film
by: Hester Baer & Angelica Fenner , December 13, 2021
by: Hester Baer & Angelica Fenner , December 13, 2021
Pro Quote Regie (PQR) was founded in 2014 as an advocacy group for gender equity in the allocation of resources and opportunities among filmmakers in Germany. The initiative quickly gained ground and expanded its reach across the film industry, incorporating under the name Pro Quote Film (PQF) in 2017. PQF draws on a long tradition of feminist activism, demanding equitable access to funding for women filmmakers, and a gender quota for filling positions in the German film and television industries.
This activism began in the early 1970s, with the founding of the Co-op of Women Filmmakers, a group of seven directors who sought to collectively produce films on topics related to the women’s movement. Two of these directors, Claudia von Alemann and Helke Sander, convened the 1st International Women’s Film Seminar, a film festival and conference held in West Berlin in 1973, which brought together more than 300 participants to view and discuss films about the situation of women in Germany and across the globe. Founded by Sander in 1974, Europe’s first feminist film journal Frauen und Film (Women and Film) provided an important print venue for critical engagement with the history and theory of women’s cinema. Building on these developments, a group of West German women filmmakers came together in 1979 to create the Verband der Filmarbeiterinnen (Union of Women Film Workers), an organisation dedicated to improving the situation for women in film through collective education and political lobbying. Throughout the 1980s, the Verband made headway in its demands for a 50/50 quota system in the allocation of funding, trainee and work positions, and seats on key committees. However, economic and political developments—including the neo-liberalisation of the culture industries and the neoconservative turn in the West German government, as well as the fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification—impeded its success, and the organisation eventually disbanded in 2009.
Writing in 1980, feminist film scholar Renate Möhrmann assessed the situation:
[I]n order to create equal employment opportunities for men and women in the film sector, an urgent desideratum would be gender parity in the filling of positions, or at least a quota system in the (funding and hiring committees … [t]he argument that comes up again and again—that no qualified women are available—can be refuted simply on the grounds that the proportion of women being educated (in the film academies) today already stands at 35%. (1980: 40-41)
Forty years later, Möhrmann’s assessment still stands as remarkably relevant to the current situation for women filmmakers. Taking up where the Verband left off, PQF has dedicated itself to pursuing the incremental work—of lobbying, publicity, international cooperation, and protest—necessary to achieve lasting change.
Since its inception, PQF has achieved several key successes. The Filmförderungsanstalt (Film Funding Association; FFA) has instituted gender parity in all of its committees, from its governing body to its subsidy-granting juries. Berlin, and the surrounding federal state of Brandenburg, implemented a long-term goal of gender equity in all regional broadcasting contracts, and the federal public television channels ARD and ZDF both adopted new policies devoted to improving gender parity. In addition to these victories—which bring with them significantly improved material conditions for women in the German film and television industries—PQF has also succeeded in garnering significant attention in the public sphere, not only on behalf of a film quota, but also to broader issues of gender and representation in media.
Of course, a great deal of work remains to be done in order for PQF to achieve its stated goals, including equitable participation (which entails parity at all levels as well as the introduction of a quota), equitable pay, and equitable representation—including less sexualised and stereotyped depictions of women and girls on screen. The precise nature of this work—including the detail-oriented and process-based labour involved in political organising and coalition building—constitutes a major theme of the following conversation with Yvonne de Andrés, spokesperson for PQF. The conversation also addresses PQF’s increasing recognition of the imperative of intersectionality and concomitant re-orientation toward a more robust conception of equity and diversity. Our interview took place at the PQF headquarters in Berlin in March 2020, on the heels of the Berlinale and on the cusp of the global lockdown, the scale of which no one could at the time have anticipated.
Since this conversation, PQF has continued its activism on behalf of equity and diversity in German and European audio-visual culture. With commentary running under the hashtag #ShareYourPower, PQF coordinated a series entitled Women*s Best for Europe, that included podcasts and masterclasses, as well as the talk ‘Best Practices in Front of and Behind the Camera.’ The group provided vital support and engagement for Carla 2020, a global digital conference on diversity and inclusion in the film and TV industry, which convened in Sweden in August of that year. PQF also contributed to the 50|50 Quota Congress held in the context of Germany’s assumption of the EU Council Presidency in November 2020.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the film and television industries have transformed swiftly and dramatically to accommodate altered conditions for funding, production, distribution, and exhibition. While some have found ways to thrive in this new, primarily digital ecology, others are struggling. The impetus to achieve gender equality within the industry, however, precedes this global crisis, and remains just as salient—if not more so—as circumstances across national contexts remain defined by uncertainty and precarity.
Hester Baer: When we first spoke with Pro Quote Regie co-founder Tatjana Turanskyj in 2016, the organisation had just changed its name to Pro Quote Film. Much appears to have changed since then. Perhaps you could first describe your own role: how did you come to work with PQF and what is the organisation’s agenda now? We see that diversity and inclusion have become very important.
Yvonne de Andrés: That is a development. I came to PQF in January 2018. The association officially established itself as Pro Quote Film on 31 January 2018, in a public event at the Berlin movie theatre Kino International. Back then, I was writing for a feminist online magazine, Aviva Berlin, but I already had PQR on my radar and had a sense of their work and their significance. The executive members reached out to me and inquired if I would be interested and have the time to take on the role of spokesperson. I said, ‘what are you planning to do?’ and they responded, ‘we’ve booked Kino International, 700 seats. They need to be filled, and we want a few camera teams, and we want it to really rock.’ I accepted the challenge, and we prepared the event very well. The emerging discussions around #MeToo, which strengthened and expanded upon all the topics around gender equity in film, also helped us a lot. The cinema was full, and there were 74 radio, print, and television stations there to report on the event, so it was an incredible success, and the organisation absolutely had its finger on the pulse with the way it presented itself. It was also just three weeks prior to the Berlinale, so the public was already very much tuned into the film world, at least in Berlin. I come from the publishing industry, from marketing and sales, so I also knew the key contacts who could ensure the event would be a success. I was already familiar with members of the Board of Directors, and we worked closely together to determine who would be available for interviews, how to craft our own statements, work with our own camera team, and edit together. It was a huge event. I have to say, I was initially somewhat sceptical because we held a press conference that was two hours long! But it all worked out really well, and the theatre was full of women actively involved in culture and gender equity. We won the public over for the cause, and we really needed to, because when you have TV cameras, you need a full theatre! In the political sphere, we were able to win over representatives of the Green Party here in the Berlin parliament. Notker Schweikhardt, the party’s spokesperson for culture, creative industries, media, and city partnership, immediately endorsed PQF.
Several weeks later, we went to the Berlinale, and there it was important, first of all, to consolidate what had emerged and to establish a public presence, including at the Academy of Arts, where we previously organised events directed towards our membership. We held an event explaining the path from PQR to PQF, why it’s important to acknowledge the trade associations that represent everyone from the costume designers to the film composers and sound engineers, and to show that these women share the political objectives of PQF. We then formulated a list of demands with ten points. Representatives of the trade associations proceeded to realise film policy objectives based on these points. We had a great speaker, the German filmmaker Jutta Brückner, a prominent director, screenwriter, and producer, whose career was launched during the feminist film movement of the 1970s, and who has trained many generations of Germany’s film students at the University of the Arts. She held an impressive speech, in which she urged women to forge alliances. There was no stopping the audience, and following that event we experienced a significant rise in our membership from women with a keen desire and interest in changing the structures within their associations.
There were two main focal points for our activity in the first year. Firstly, there was a tremendous effort to consider on what level we should be active, whether on the federal level or that of the different states. We started by writing to all of the spokespersons and ministries for cultural policy in the states, but we discovered that it was challenging to try to address all the issues of our membership at once. We also noted which states were supportive of a quota system and which weren’t, especially in the cultural policy sector. Over time, we began to concentrate on the states that supported the quota, because that’s where we felt we could really make progress and achieve something together. We also noted which states are important on a regional level because of their proximity to Berlin. Most of our members currently still reside and work in Berlin. But it was also important to note where the key festivals are, where our women are showing their films. In this regard, we can say that the Munich film festival is very important, and the Hamburg film festival as well. We didn’t make it into many more—except DOK Leipzig, of course, especially while Leena Pasanen was working as the managing and festival director.
So, this was one aspect of our work, and the second aspect involved the conversations that PQF fostered with the broadcast representatives, including figures like Professor Karola Wille at the Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk, who advocated for a quota of 40 percent women. We led many discussions and dialogues, taking into consideration what we can actually accomplish and implement without getting bogged down. It’s important for us to determine what the main focal points are, where we want to go, how many events we will coordinate during the year, and where we can be invited to a platform that allows us to represent our statements and political views. In the first and second years, the Board got involved in many different ways: for example, they travelled all over, from Baden-Wuerttemberg to Saxony, to attend film funding events. They also attended events such as the 8th of March (International Women’s Day), where our colleagues continue to be in high demand as speakers, and women’s policy congresses where the Board is regularly invited to speak on such topics as stereotypes in film, visibility, and increasing the presence of women in front of and behind the camera. The focus varies, depending on the backgrounds of our colleagues. Barbara Teufel, who comes from documentary, is more involved in documentary circles. Turkanskyj is active in Frankfurt at the Kinothek Asta Nielsen as a panelist and at the International Women’s Film Festival in Dortmund/Köln. Beyond that, we were also able to recruit dedicated members, such as Sheri Hagen, who served on the Dortmund/Köln jury. The more panels and congresses that get to know us, the more the organisation expands. This has helped us to begin to address a broad spectrum of recommendations. Now it isn’t just the Board speaking to the public, but also a diverse group of colleagues taking an active part on panels. One consistently important feature has been for our members to introduce themselves via the ‘speed dating’ we’ve coordinated with the ARD Degeto Film GmbH (the film acquisition arm of the public broadcasting network ARD, a key player in German film production). The areas we promote currently encompass directing, acting, and screenwriting.
Our press packet offers a comprehensive overview of what we have accomplished thus far, and what new developments emerged one year after the launch of PQF—developments spearheaded by Rohm, who was still on the Board then. Together with the legal adviser of the Federal Association of Actors (Bundesverband Schauspiel/BFFS), and with 16 other organisations, Rohm founded the Themis Trust Center (Vertrauensstelle), with additional support from Monika Grütters, the Federal Commissioner for Culture and the Media. It took considerable and concerted effort to pull this together, but after one year, in the autumn of 2018, the Themis gained public recognition for best practices in its approach to those affected by sexual harassment or assault in the film, theatre, and music industries. Music, in this case, just encompasses orchestra, not the whole spectrum of music; what became apparent was that, especially in cultural areas where there are indeed hierarchies but where interactions are very collegial, very personal, these hierarchies often foster transgressive behaviour. This is a key difference between Themis and the authority already wielded through laws on labour relations in the workplace, especially the Works Constitution Act (Betriebsverfassungsgesetz). Precisely because it is an external authority, Themis can gain more trust (hence the use of the term ‘Vertrauenstelle’—trust centre—and not ‘Hilfestelle,’ or help centre) from those needing to reach out. By contrast, with the Staff Representation Act (Personalvertretungsgesetz/PersVG), if someone makes a complaint about a violation, the staff council and the works council have to approach the complainant and address the claim. The victim immediately loses anonymity and that inhibits many people from approaching these authorities. The numbers were relatively high for both women and men turning to these newly founded trust centres. They offer both psychological and legal counsel, and are authorised to represent the plaintiff in employment law cases, although so far no lawsuits have been filed through Themis. This may be indicative of a different labour climate in Germany, where it is much more common to remain silent than it is, for example, in the US. That’s what we suspect.
Another important topic we’ve been working on since autumn 2019 is to amend the Film Funding Act (Filmförderungsgesetz, FFG), and to get the ball rolling by having the Board take part in those conversations. In Parliament, a unique document had to be prepared outlining the contributions of the respective organisations towards amendment of the Film Funding Act. It will be updated every two years as an ongoing process and will also inform roundtable discussions leading up to the Berlinale. Representatives from the Grand Coalition (CDU and SPD) in the Culture Commission were invited, and we delivered a presentation on key issues. Now we have to wait. In the meantime, we’ve been editing a draft for the Federal Commission for Culture and Media, and continuing the conversations while also looking to see if recommendations that are important for us are being implemented. For PQF, this includes implementing the Austrian points system—the Austrian Film Institute awards points based on how many women are involved in the filmmaking process. Depending on how many points you acquire, you can secure additional funding. This is uncommon in the German funding system, which until now has had a selection of funding opportunities, but no provisions made for meeting gender parity or diversity quotas that would enable a topping off of some sort. This would be a major change, but we are discussing it with representatives of the parties who are in the Commission for Culture and Media.
HB: How does it look in the Commission?
YdA: It looks like we are absolutely making progress there. There aren’t that many other associations that have gender parity on their agenda, so it’s been up to PQF to tackle this directly. Institutional collaborators, including the film academies, recognise our professionalism, but at the same time we are also activists. This interplay between institutional engagement and activism has been successful, and the fact that we repeatedly come to agreements on the level of policy or in television programming or film festivals has gained us a certain level of recognition. Certainly, there are differences of opinion, but that’s alright. It pushes us to stay on the ball, to advance things professionally, to organise events and take up new topics. Rather than take the attitude that we already know how this is going to play out, we prefer to keep our options and frameworks open, as we have with diversity and intersectionality. We want to continue educating ourselves. We want to learn together with others and engage in dialogue. For this reason, we also prefer not to lead the discussion per se, but rather open up a framework to share with others and see how we can advance the dialogue together. We don’t regard ourselves exclusively as moderators, but definitely also as participants, and it is clear that the topic of diversity and intersectionality has gained in importance in Berlin political circles in recent years.
HB: What has changed for this topic to become more important in the current moment?
YdA: The topic has been amplified. The current transformations in German society are thematised differently by politically progressive forces. People of Colour are gaining a stronger voice. Cultural institutions such as the Maxim Gorki Theatre, whose programming has thematised migration quite consistently, play an important role. Through initiatives like Die Blindgängerin, we address physical barriers, disability, and the cinema experience for visually impaired people. Together with the Gunda-Werner-Institut, Emilia Roig’s Center for Intersectional Justice invited Kimberlé Crenshaw last year. That was an amazing event. The majority of our Board was there, [as were] a lot of people we know from the Berlinale, from Fokus Diversity. Especially in the film sector, I think, we are necessarily more internationalised than mainstream German society, and that’s why it has become a focus. The same is true with Indigenous narratives. You enter into the dialogue to learn. It’s also about offering visibility to those less represented, and that was very much a discussion we were having with the Berlinale. We turned our attention to working towards diversity throughout the whole year. Of course, it’s still about gender parity, but we’re also opening up to and entering into debates about diversity and intersectionality. The Board is … well, we are all white, and we feel it shouldn’t stay this way, it’s just the present status of the organisation.
HB: How does PQF plan to address this broader question of diversity? As an organisation, you have focused on gender quotas, but other forms of diversity, especially racial and ethnic diversity, are a little more challenging because these data are not collected.
YdA: No, they’re not collected.
HB: That’s not legally possible, due to Germany’s history. How are the organisation’s strategies changing now to achieve more diversity in the industry?
YdA: I can only say that members of our board are meeting with other groups now, from the Queer Media Society to People of Colour and, of course, it’s also about data and the limitations on their collection. There is talk about collecting data, but for that, too, you need money. Maybe we’d have to have a roundtable—and PQF would be an organisation that could coordinate that—to discuss how that can be realised, and what it could look like. For PQF, the political task of a 50/50 gender quota in front of and behind the camera is still central. But that doesn’t mean that we are not open to other topics. We are not per se changing direction to discover new topics; rather, we see other topics opening up parallel to our initial work that we feel we should attend to, and really have to attend to, because the world is changing, and we don’t exist in a vacuum. We have to work together with others, and we are doing that while also figuring out how to distribute the labour. It bears mentioning that this political work is done entirely on a voluntary basis.
Angelica Fenner: So, you don’t receive a salary, you’re not an employee?
YdA: No, I’m not an employee, but we do earn money when we do projects. For example, the Berlinale Round Table is a project. Berlinale radikal is another project. But it’s not like the political work stops when we’re not working on a project. Everyone has to decide for themselves how much time and energy they can put in. When you get involved in the organisation, you can’t exactly say ‘Sorry, I’m done with my commitment to this policy’. It doesn’t work that way.
AF: It is remarkable that PQF is run on an entirely voluntary basis.
YdA: Exactly, the political work is volunteer-run. Of course, we do small campaigns in between, but those are not paid, either, because almost all of us work somewhere else, too. I mean, we couldn’t earn a living otherwise.
AF: But there is a membership structure: are there fees associated with that?
YdA: Yes, but it was a strategic consideration of the board that the membership fee not be that high. It’s important that women stay enrolled in their trade associations, because that’s one way they can have an impact. The trade associations have varying fees, so we kept the PQF fee low: 40 Euros. With just over 450 members, that doesn’t bring in a lot of money. So financing for structural costs has to be allocated. I should mention that our office here is in a building that belongs to the Federal Real-Estate Association, and we pay unusually low rent for the space. As part of this special arrangement, we can also request a conference room, and have access to a number of in-house cultural facilities.
AF: Was the event that took place last week (February 2020) at the French Embassy in Berlin, the 2nd International Round Table of Women’s Organizations in the Film and Media Industry, also sponsored by the embassy?
YdA: Yes, we requested this. Since the launch of PQF, we’ve maintained a close and productive relationship with the French Embassy. The Ambassador herself, Anne-Marie Descôtes, is emphatically committed to gender equality, and represents a French organisation called #JamaisSansElles. Additionally, in the cultural sector—in almost every sector actually—the relationship between Germany and France is among the most important. The German-French relationship is in itself significant, but the cultural section of the French Embassy is also very devoted to cinema. No other country maintains such an intensified cultural focus on cinema. We have an incredible number of French colleagues who have either directed or produced: Dominique Treilhou, director of the Institut Français, was herself a producer with Arte France for eight years.
There are a number of really impressive initiatives that started last year, when Rohm was invited by Madame Descôtes to contribute to a project for International Women’s Day. The Institut Français and the Bureau du Cinéma have a wonderful cultural series that introduces the public to French films by directors who don’t have distribution in Germany. Tonie Marshall’s film Numéro une was screened for International Women’s Day, followed by a roundtable with Rohm and Monika Schulz-Strelow, a colleague from Women on Boards (Frauen in die Aufsichtsräte), among others. It was exciting for us to do this, because French films ordinarily only gain distribution in Germany if they are comedies, or if a very well-known actress or actor plays the lead role, or if they’re made by a well-known or scandal-laden director. Otherwise, French films have a hard time on the German market. Out of these collaborations, relationships were formed: that is also why we were able to celebrate our big party with members of the Institut Français. Of course, we also maintain relationships with other embassies.
AF: Including the Goethe-Institut?
YdA: Yes, we’ve established connections with the film department of the Munich Goethe-Institut. In Berlin, we also have connections, of course, but the Munich Goethe-Institut is the head office. At last year’s roundtable, a representative from Brazil also participated; it was very empowering for all of us to be able to join such a large roundtable composed of organisations of women in film. It was held at the Federal Foreign Office, and included a welcoming address by Michelle Müntefering, the Foreign Cultural Officer. Most who came had never been to the Federal Foreign Office before and were honoured to have their work recognised there.
We tend to stay in contact with colleagues abroad. Rohm was invited to Brazil by ANCINE, the Brazilian equivalent of our Film Funding Association, which was dissolved after President Bolsonaro implemented austerity measures. She still travelled there and reported on diversity and standards in Germany. The head of the British Film Institute also travelled to Brazil, and contacts with the UK are developing from that, as are contacts with Rebel Sister Films in Ireland, and the feminist film festival in Brussels. We absolutely have to support this networking and see who can do what with whom. We’ve brought together a lot of organisations, but we know, of course, how important WIFTI (Women in Film and Television International) and EWA (European Women of Audio-visuals) are, and we continue to communicate with them, as well as with Women in Hollywood, Collectif 50/50, and others. That’s why it is so important, I think, to mention all of them, including the Swedish Film Institute—we have to acknowledge that they are much further ahead in achieving their goals, but we can benefit from continuing the exchange. We don’t necessarily want to do exactly what they are doing, but we want to learn from them, and maybe introduce something complementary.
We’ve also directed our communications towards the Federal Foreign Office, which has worked together with the Cultural Minister in South Africa, where sexual transgressions are much more pronounced than here, to put together a Guide of Conduct for sexual violence with the support and coordination of the Federal Ministry for Cooperation, which is working very rigorously on the Women’s Equality Goals of the UN. I have found that, wherever the political pressure is stronger, the need to effect change is greater. Most colleagues in Brazil have almost no film funding remaining because no provision is made for it there. But they’ve recently launched a leadership program and want to maintain a stronger exchange with foreign institutions and embassies. This is where German foreign policy is particularly important. We have to oscillate between a meta-level of politics, a national politics, and a membership politics.
HB: You mentioned that you also receive financial support for projects like the one taking place at the Berlinale now?
YdA: We are transparent about our sources, and we always name them. They are usually ministries or involve the cooperation of embassies; there is less funding directly from the ministers. We have to account for everything in great detail, even when working on a very small scale; many organisations fail because the accounting is too complicated for them. But at PQF we are not only experts in acquisition and implementation of funds but also in accounting, otherwise it wouldn’t work.
AF: So, every woman is responsible for specific tasks of the organisation, depending on professional experience or special talents?
YdA: On projects, usually, Rohm writes the applications, that is the Board’s responsibility, and the Board also decides which project elements there will be.
HB: How do you decide who serves on the Board of Directors?
YdA: By election. In my case, I do the press work, but then, social media or other tasks come up and we ask around. I write less often these days, but am quite familiar with the politics, and I voluntarily sit on podiums, often without even being asked by PQF. I know quite a few people in the foundations, the political foundations, the Hertie Foundation, and in the press. You just go out for coffee. Then, it’s helpful to make this knowledge available to PQF as well. I make it a point to be involved in the political work of the legislature too. Which doesn’t mean that I necessarily speak there, unless invited to do so, but the Board does. So, some of my work takes place in the background, but that’s also good: after all, you need someone who slaps the post-it notes on Rohm’s mirror to announce, ‘Look, I know how we’re going to meet this person, let’s do this’.
I think it’s important to win men over as supporters for our projects as well, and to see who is most suitable for what: the tasks are quite varied. Board members divide these up among themselves. For example, there was a project roundtable that Rohm was more involved in, and then with the second project, ‘Diversity and Intersectionality,’ Turanskyj and Teufel were more involved. Birgit Stauber was more involved in our ‘speed dating’ program. Since the latter was a closed event, it wasn’t widely promoted, and the remaining Board of Directors didn’t have to carry full responsibility for the project; we were just contributing to it, which was a pleasure. The Equal Opportunities Officer held the opening speech at ‘Diversity,’ but she was also responsible for editing the film material for the trailers that were posted afterwards. So, you don’t necessarily hear about everything that’s happening; we already had one congress in January that fed into a campaign called #ShareYourPower leading up to the Berlinale this year. We invited other cultural associations to join us in the discussions about quotas in Germany currently being debated in companies, in film, in culture, and in politics. We wanted to address this within civil society and the cultural sector. The event was really well attended and became exemplary for how you can start out as just one organisation and invite other organisations on board. We conceived of it in such a way that we also gained new contacts through it. What’s great with PQF is that our events are always admission-free—there are no barriers to participation. The Board’s philosophy on accessibility is that we don’t want any groups to be excluded because they can’t afford it.
AF: I was also in the audience at the 2018 PQF event and found the mood to be one of hope and anticipation. It was very moving when Jutta Brückner spoke, and Helke Sander was also there. They are, of course, the pioneers who mobilised on behalf of women’s filmmaking and achieved many things. I wasn’t there in 2019, but I found the mood in 2020 to be a different one: I didn’t sense the same optimism.
YdA: What you say about optimism is absolutely right. Shortly before the Berlinale, the FFA numbers were released, and that was, frankly, unbelievable. Even though we’ve now been advancing PQF for two years and one month, the number of funded women’s projects is actually declining. We’re finding that the structures in place are much more resistant to change than we might have thought, and that no one gives you anything, nor does anyone necessarily make room and want to share their power. It’s a tough process. Before, PQF was often a fun troupe of people, and it’s important that these qualities are still present, but that alone doesn’t change structures. It’s simply a long process, and that’s why we try to emphasise in our social media accounts that we are mobilising on behalf of empowerment, to show women that we have to move forward. No one will vacate seats for us unless they recognise this; the game will always necessitate both the official path through the institutions and exerting pressure from outside. For some, that’s tiring. And to be fair, you always have to watch out in the process of criticising the system that you don’t inadvertently become part of that same system. In the beginning, we were only speaking with the Green Party and the SPD; now, we talk to all the parties, but that’s also time-consuming, and you find yourself wondering what impact it’s having. We constantly ask ourselves, are we diverging from our intended goal, are we getting bogged down in details? And then there are also institutions that just want to look good by virtue of their association with PQF.
AF: Are there differences, or even tensions between the generations involved: between younger women and those who were previously active in the women’s movement and have had different experiences and have employed different tactics?
YdA: The tonalities between the generations are different, and PQF doesn’t necessarily reach all generations. There are many younger actresses and women filmmakers whom we may not be reaching yet, but we connect with some of them through related programs like First Steps and Into the Wild. They follow us, and if they think that we are doing something good, they share it on their social media. In my experience, it’s always important to know that you are building on a solid foundation; at the roundtable, we brought in Claudia von Alemann, who drew an audience of women involved in film. Of course, we also often receive requests for speakers who can simply tell this history. A concrete example is the Digital German Women’s Archive (Digitales Deutsches Frauenarchiv), which hosted a feminist women’s university the last two years. In the first year, we had two events there: one with Maren Kroymann, Nina Kronjäger and Mateja Medad. At the other event, Susanne Foidl, a master editor at Potsdam University who was also on the PQF Board at the time, talked about Gender Editing and edited a film to demonstrate how editing can reinforce or de-emphasise gender norms. This became the big event. It was really great.
AF: I think it’s important to preserve this continuity, so that the coming generation understands which building blocks have already been put in place. It is our impression that the millennial turn ushered in a post-feminist wave; something now seems to be shifting again, and the feminism of an earlier generation is being reframed in new contexts.
YdA: I don’t know if it’s being rediscovered. I think it’s somewhat complicated. We basically endorse all women, and that includes Ula Stöckl and [Helke] Sander. Von Alemann was admitted to the film section of the Academy of Fine Arts last year. Last year, there was also a short cycle of Stöckl’s films that we advertised and endorsed widely. Von Alemann had an opening for a retrospective of all her films at the Kino am Bundesplatz, which afforded us a good occasion to invite young members. In the end, not that many young people attended: it was mainly the older generations. Those of us who attended said, let’s sit down with the younger ones, have a coffee, and start a conversation. If you say to these young people, ‘hello, I’m from PQF’, then they answer, ‘oh, our association’, so that is, I think, a really good way for women across generations to connect.
Our website is for our membership, but [is] also about raising public awareness. And social media also encompasses friends of PQF, where we’ve been able to capture public attention far beyond our membership. We have almost 5,200 followers, including institutions and associations, exponentially expanding our coverage far beyond our 450 members. We deliver updates quickly and efficiently, network internationally, and initiate collectives. We also learned that you should do German social media only in German and English. French, Spanish, and Italian aren’t received as well, but maybe they will be soon if we gain a stronger presence in the French press. Just last week, we spoke to the acting head of the César Academy, Margaret Ménégoz. She’s really excellent, but the only news that landed with the German public was that the jury voluntarily resigned in response to the Polanski scandal, rather than the fact that a really competent woman with a great reputation has taken the lead in initiating that. We’ve also been covering the situation in Brazil ever since we hosted panellists from Brazil, but overall we are very much centred on Germany.
HB: Are there future plans that you could announce already, or main topics that will be coming up?
YdA: Well, WIFTI is planning their summer congress in Carla, Sweden, and we’re planning a follow-up to that meeting here in Berlin. We are just coming out of the Berlinale, and therefore are not quite there yet in planning content. But delving deeper into topics with others is important. This year, a few of us will be going to Cannes—if it’s held during the pandemic—at our own expense, to see how the French and WIFTI and EWA colleagues are doing things. We want to let ourselves be inspired. We also visit local universities here [and] this Friday, we’ll host a small party. Last autumn, we were asked by the City of Berlin whether we’d like to get involved in an open-air exhibition, ‘150 Years of the Women’s Movement,’ which would be displayed for a year and a half. And that definitely honours us if we are one of the 18 featured feminist groups. Turanskyj was chosen from the Board of Directors to coordinate this and write texts, while we selected photos. 2020 as a whole is dedicated to gender equality and determining how we can best address diversity within gender equality, work more intensively on what we have achieved, and further expand our contacts. After two years, you lose a bit of that initial drive and start focusing on consolidating your achievements.
I believe that many of the women who’ve shown up for PQF, both those who are part of the organisation and those who attend events, are ‘movement women’, they are part of the feminist movement and are participating in campaigns like One Billion Rising (the global activist group started by Eve Ensler to end sexual violence against women). For them, it’s about the fact that we’re doing something together and there is great energy there, no question. But in certain areas this energy is not enough to effect a change. The proportion of these women, even within PQF, who want to take the political, institutional path is actually very low. The issue that is not explicitly stated is what these institutions are like, and what we have to put up with. The fact that only Rohm consistently goes this route says a lot. Some women don’t have the time, but they also just don’t want to go down that path. Rohm and I support it, because that’s the only way we can gradually achieve small changes, but it also means that somebody has to take responsibility and keep track of the details after every meeting. There need to be designated roles for tasks, in order for things to get done, and someone has to keep track of the overview and take notes. Sometimes that’s just annoying and tedious, but whenever we undertake something, we write it up, discuss with others, and then we have a lasting record posted on the homepage that others can read and benefit from. It’s ongoing work, and it’s a Sisyphean task, to be honest—and sometimes we’re not sure if we’ve made a difference. But the alternative would be to do nothing. My sense is that there is widespread respect for PQF now, which was not the case in the beginning. We had our differences with certain institutions, and these were dealt with in different ways: for example, through interviews. Even today, not everyone shares the same views, but we agree on certain issues such as that of having intimacy coordinators. We’ve expanded our portfolio of topics. There was definitely agreement about doing so, and there are increasingly more open-minded people (more women than men), who acknowledge, they’re doing important things, getting things done, and not just running around with clenched fists yelling, ‘when is the revolution going to arrive?’ We did have clenched fists on our posters—we deliberately chose this as a motif. But are we actually clenched fists? Not exactly. The image was supposed to capture this sense of breaking out of old structures, a gesture most can identify with.
What is taking place in the association is a natural progression, involving ongoing discussion and a balancing act. It’s clear that being a member of the association necessitates a degree of solidarity among and with women, otherwise change won’t be possible. Of course, we also have to ride the climate of current German politics, and we have a good window of opportunity at the moment. I don’t know how things will look a year from now. There will probably be gradual changes taking place on the federal level. We noticed this last year in the states: wherever the AfD (Alternative für Deutschland) was stronger, all the projects advocating on behalf of women also became stronger. The state parliaments must have gotten involved. You don’t always notice these tensions in Berlin, but when you travel to Saxony-Anhalt or to Thuringia, it’s quite palpable.
AF: You have accomplished so much, that’s undeniable. Starting a revolution and enacting lasting structural change takes time, that’s just the way it is.
YdA: We like to call that type of cultural change ‘transculturation.’ But the question is whether the backlash will hit faster than our attempt to change the culture. To be completely honest, I am sceptical. This year, we’ve still managed quite well. We have to maintain, cultivate, and expand contacts. We basically have to think like politicians, even though we’re not a party and we’re not a ministry either. We have to think about how we can achieve our goals by entering politics. For this, you have to change the meta-level. Once, at a roundtable involving a public debate, the representative of the Federal Foreign Office came up to us afterwards and said, ‘you moved me to tears with a perspective I had never considered before.’ The representative from the Federal Ministry of Women’s Affairs also said, ‘the way they lined this up with the narrative, it was really interesting.’ You always have to consider that we, too, often start out in a bubble when it comes to our communications. To try to break through that, and to present something new in a friendly and charming way that also inspires people to think and reflect, might be the right approach. But that means reading books, watching films, noting, ‘aha, this interesting professor is doing this and this, we need to put her on our radar, and this interesting filmmaker is doing this.’ We have to think about and look at what’s happening, not only in Germany but elsewhere, too.
Anna Serner (the CEO of the Swedish Film Institute, activist for gender equity in film production, and initiator of the campaign 50/50×2020) gave a talk at the Berlinale and shared, ‘we are also trying to carefully approach diversity.’ Of course, we all are, we just don’t know how yet. I think it’s also honest to state that we are still learning, but we’re going to stay with it. We may not be pioneers, but we are going to look at what we need to do and how to think about it in relation to the film industry. We look to Canada a lot. We don’t think Canada is perfect either, but there are Indigenous peoples and a more diversified society than has historically been the case in Germany. How do the Canadians tackle diversity? Canada is currently the guest of honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair, so the Canadian Embassy is doing extensive cultural programming this year. One event about inclusion processes in Canada, including multi-ethnicity and diversity was 6 Degrees: The Global Forum for Inclusion. How do we also turn our country into an open civil society? I spent a whole day there, to view the content and the topics, but also the format; for example, to see how the ambassador engages [with] the general public. Would a German ambassador do that? I think rather less so, [and] a German minister certainly not.
AF: It is, of course, also the case that a form of foreign policy is in play, in which concepts like diversity may be marketed.
YdA: It’s a showcase, absolutely, but it nevertheless offers us a crash course in how things are discussed and what topics are addressed that we may not yet be covering. The French wouldn’t do something like that, nor would the Italians, nor the Spanish. They would sooner do high culture or other topics.
We will see quite a few things moving along this year. Now (March) is the time of year when the first festivals begin, when women who’ve worked on a film are on the road—and that’s quite normal, it’s important for them to promote themselves and their projects, and that will continue well into the Fall.
AF: You mentioned PQF will be at Cannes?
YdA: In the past, Stauber and a number of colleagues from acting have been there. This time Rohm and I want to fly down. I will certainly visit panels but would also like to meet with Helene Granqvist of WIFTI for a more extensive conversation about her upcoming meeting in Carla, Sweden for a 3-day conference on diversity and inclusion. We are thinking about also organising an event at Carla. Helene said that it should be very hands-on, which is what we would want too—something through which we can enter into discussion with one another in new ways. We’re looking into what we could offer that would build towards our own Carla event in Berlin in November, and we need to consider whether many people would attend, since they will already have travel expenditures to the Berlinale.
We are aiming for a November event because, starting in June, Germany will assume the EU Council Presidency, and approximately 25 prominent women’s organisations will make a contribution—from women in business to women in political parties—so what we do has to fit in an original way. Let’s see what we can achieve; it really needs to go ‘bam’ again. We are also in talks with one of the embassies. Then there are the perennial questions that precede any event: whom do you bring on board, does the woman have a party affiliation, from whom do we get the funding? You can’t get the funding from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, which is politically SPD, and at the same time invite someone else who is FDP. These are the kinds of details that have to be taken into consideration.
AF/HB: Thank you, Yvonne, for taking the time to elaborate both on PQF’s history and its current trajectory. We wish the organisation much continued success!
Our travel to the Berlinale was made possible by a SSHRC Institutional Grant of the University of Toronto and by the University of Maryland. We thank research assistants Christian Zeitz and Dena Kamseh for assistance with transcription and translation.
Baer, Hester & Angelica Fenner (2018), ‘Introduction: Revisiting Feminism and German Cinema’, Women’s Film Authorship in Neoliberal Times: Revisiting Feminism and German Cinema, Special Issue, Camera Obscura: Feminism, Culture, and Media Studies, Vol. 99, pp. 1-19.
Baer, Hester & Angelica Fenner (2018), ‘Representation Matters: Tatjana Turanskyj on Women’s Filmmaking and the Pro Quote Film Movement’, Women’s Film Authorship in Neoliberal Times: Revisiting Feminism and German Cinema, Special Issue Camera Obscura: Feminism, Culture, and Media Studies Vol. 99, pp. 128-145.
Loist , Skadi & Elizabeth Prommer (2019), ‘Gendered Production Culture in the German Film Industry’, Media Industries Vol 6, No. 1, DOI: https://doi.org/10.3998/mij.15031809.0006.106 (last accessed 6 June 2021).
Möhrmann, Renate (1980), Die Frau mit der Kamera: Filmemacherinnen in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Munich: Hanser.
Pro Quote Film, ‘Ziele’, https://proquote-film.de/#/ziele/object=page:9 (last accessed 6 June 2021).
WHO SUPPORTS US
The team of MAI supporters and contributors is always expanding. We’re honoured to have a specialist collective of editors, whose enthusiasm & talent gave birth to MAI.
However, to turn our MAI dream into reality, we also relied on assistance from high-quality experts in web design, development and photography. Here we’d like to acknowledge their hard work and commitment to the feminist cause. Our feminist ‘thank you’ goes to:
Dots+Circles – a digital agency determined to make a difference, who’ve designed and built our MAI website. Their continuous support became a digital catalyst to our idealistic project.
Guy Martin – an award-winning and widely published British photographer who’s kindly agreed to share his images with our readers
Chandler Jernigan – a talented young American photographer whose portraits hugely enriched the visuals of MAI website
Matt Gillespie – a gifted professional British photographer who with no hesitation gave us permission to use some of his work
Julia Carbonell – an emerging Spanish photographer whose sharp outlook at contemporary women grasped our feminist attention
Ana Pedreira – a self-taught Portuguese photographer whose imagery from women protests beams with feminist aura
And other photographers whose images have been reproduced here: Cezanne Ali, Les Anderson, Mike Wilson, Annie Spratt, Cristian Newman, Peter Hershey