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#18 – Our Campaign for Diversity in the Creative Industries

Posted on Jun 14, 2016 in The Wall | 0 comments

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#18 – Our Campaign for Diversity in Creative Industries

 

Today a new campaign was launched in Italy for diversity in the creative industries, via Change.org. The occasion is the current discussion in the Italian Senate of bill no. 2287 “Regulations for film, audiovisual media, and performing arts,” proposed by Dario Franceschini, Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism. The campaign was created by a pool of nine film critics, filmmakers and activists: Leonardo De Franceschi, editor-in-chief of Cinemafrodiscendente, together with Afrodescendant Fred Kuwornu, Nadia Kibout, Alfie Nze and Reda Zine, are a part of this group. The campaign. The manifesto was subscribed by 50 first petitioners, chosen in the Italian scene of film, media and creative industries: the list includes quite a few filmmakers of African descent, namely Tezeta Abraham, Saba Anglana, Jonis Bascir, Rachid Benhadj, Jonas Carpignano, Maged El Mahedy, Esther Elisha, Theo Eshetu, Ahmed Hafiene, Hedy Krissane, Félicité Mbezele, Mohsen Melliti, Medhin Paolos, Dagmawi Yimer. The English version of the manifsto was kindly translated by Camilla Hawthorne. We ask you all to sign and help us spread the campaign #peruncinemadiverso [for a diverse cinema]  on Change.org: goo.gl/QwcnPR

 

FOR A LAW THAT SUPPORTS PLURALISM, DIVERSITY AND OPPORTUNITY IN THE CREATIVE INDUSTRIES – PETITION

To: Pietro Grasso, President of the Senate, Italy; Matteo Renzi, Prime Minister; Matteo Renzi, Prime Minister; Dario Franceschini, Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism; Andrea Marcucci, President of the 7th Permanent Committee for Education, Cultural Heritage, Scientific Research, Performing Arts, and Sport; Rosa Maria Di Giorgi, Rapporteur for bill no. 2287; Senators of the Italian Republic

 

We are citizens of Italy, EU countries, and non-EU countries as well as stateless persons who, living and working in Italy, contribute to the richness of this country. We do not see ourselves reflected in the dominant narratives that Italy tells about itself, simply because most of the time we are absent or merely “bit players” in these narratives. Some of us work or would like to work in the creative industries, but the logics of the market and the laws in effect impede or limit the right to equal opportunity, despite the fact that Article Three of the Italian Constitution ensures that it is the task of the Republic to remove “economic and social obstacles” that “impede the full development of the human person and the effective participation of all workers in the political, economic, and social structure of the country.”

Bill no. 2287, “Regulations for film, audiovisual media, and performing arts,” proposed by Minister Dario Franceschini, aims to reverse the trend of a structural crisis that, for decades, has afflicted the creative industries. It, however, disregards one of the reasons for the gap that separates our industries from those of our “competitor” countries on the international market: the limited appeal of our narratives on the national and international markets is also caused by a lack of inclusiveness and pluralism. For years in the United States, United Kingdom, France, and other countries, the number of voices calling for increased diversity onscreen and off-screen has been growing; these countries have also adopted protocols that require the public sector to create Diversity Departments and hire Diversity Managers. In Italy, that debate never caught on because of a cultural lag into which we want to intervene. We are convinced that the adoption of an agenda focused on the value of diversity in the new law currently under discussion could improve the health of the entire sector of creative industries.

We are therefore formulating some requests with respect to the bill. First of all, we include the principle of diversity as an orienting criterion for its measures—understood both as an opening for symbolic initiatives, and also as the proactive involvement of individuals who represent diversity in terms of gender (women), sexual orientation, age, national origin, dis/ability, religion, social background, and legal status. To implement this principle, we propose to include three amendments in the new law that are aimed, respectively, at:

  • Inflecting the concept of pluralism in such a way that it includes concrete diversity policies (art. 3);
  • equating the criterion of continuous residence with possession of citizenship, for the purpose of determining the nationality of film and audiovisual works (articles 5 and 13);
  • establishing that the composition of the Superior Board of “Film and Audiovisual Works,” which is already subject to the requirement of gender parity, should have at least one third of its members representing diverse identities. 

We need a more complex and effective narration of our country. More inclusive. More responsive to the many articulations of Italian society. One that is more compelling for national and international audiences.

Useful links [in Italian]:

Bill no. 2287, in the text approved by the Council of Ministers on January 28, 2016

The schedule of legislative activities

Promoters of the campaign:

Leonardo De Franceschi, Giulia Grassilli, Suranga Deshapriya Katugampala, Nadia Kibout, Fred Kuwornu, Razi Mohebi, Alfie Nze, Chiara Zanini, Reda Zine

First petitioners:

Tezeta Abraham, Ubah Cristina Ali Farah, Saba Anglana, Gianluca Arcopinto, Jonis Bascir, Paula Baudet Vivanco, Francesca Bellino, Rachid Benhadj, Bernardo Bertolucci, Jonas Carpignano, Giulio Cederna, Mariuccia Ciotta, Marco Cohen, Sergio Di Giorgi, Maged El Mahedy, Esther Elisha, Theo Eshetu, Agostino Ferrente, Goffredo Fofi, Annamaria Gallone, Mauro Gervasini, Gabriella Ghermandi, Gabriella Guido, Ahmed Hafiene, Pap Khouma, Francesca Koch, Hedy Krissane, Amara Lakhous, Tahar Lamri, Gad Lerner, Félicité Mbezele, Mohsen Melliti, Marco Müller, Flore Murard-Yovanovitch, Medhin Paolos, Dijana Pavlovic, Alessandro Portelli, Marco Simon Puccioni, Elvira Ricotta Adamo, Annamaria Rivera, Igiaba Scego, Andrea Segre, Roberto Silvestri, Alessandra Speciale, Alessandro Triulzi, Mauro Valeri, Francesca Vecchioni, Wu Ming, Dagmawi Yimer, Giancarlo Zappoli

Contacts: peruncinemadiverso@gmail.com

_________________________________________________________________________________

 

FOR A LAW THAT SUPPORTS PLURALISM, DIVERSITY AND OPPORTUNITY IN THE CREATIVE INDUSTRIES – MANIFESTO 

 

We are citizens of Italy, EU countries, and non-EU countries as well as stateless persons who, living and working in Italy, contribute to the richness of this country. We do not see ourselves reflected in the dominant narratives that Italy tells about itself through film, fiction, variety programs, performances, and newscasts; most of the time we are absent or merely “bit players” in these narratives. We remain spectators, and not only when we go to the movies. Limited in our capacity to be active participants, we are also spectators in real life. Some of us work or would like to work in the creative industries, but the logics of the market and the laws in effect impede or limit the right to equal opportunity, despite the fact that Article Three of the Italian Constitution ensures that it is the task of the Republic to remove “economic and social obstacles” that “impede the full development of the human person and the effective participation of all workers in the political, economic, and social structure of the country.”

The bill no. 2287, “Regulations for film, audiovisual media, and performing arts,” proposed by Minister Dario Franceschini and demanded for some time by the filmmaking associations, is now under review by the Parliament and will become law soon. The bill aims to reverse the trend of a structural crisis that, for decades, has afflicted the cultural sector. For us, it is also an opportunity to draw attention to some issues that are overlooked in the current draft by formulating our own proposals. Some of us work or would like to work in the creative industries as writers, artists, entrepreneurs, technicians, journalists, or communications managers. But the logics of the market and the laws in effect limit the right to equal opportunity, de jure or de facto, despite the fact that Article Three of the Italian Constitution guarantees that it is the task of the Republic to remove “economic and social obstacles” that “impede the full development of the human person and the effective participation of all workers in the political, economic, and social structure of the country.”

An effective law from the Minister of Cultural Heritage should follow this principle of equality. There is no democracy if it does not exist for everyone.

Supporting us are many whom the market and laws have afforded a position of privilege; moreover, these issues are very relevant given the ongoing state of crisis and downsizing of the entire industry. We reaffirm that all of the efforts of the Parliament should be focused on using this legislative step to chart a different course from the past and start a countertrend that can shape the discussion of this and other laws. For years in the United States, United Kingdom, France, and other countries, the number of voices calling for increased diversity onscreen and off-screen has been growing. Many countries have now adopted protocols that require the public sector to hire Diversity Managers, whose responsibility it is to monitor activities and outcomes for businesses. In Italy, that debate never caught on because of a cultural lag into which we want to intervene.

We are not all in the same condition: some of us are more protected than others. The recent law on civil unions was a small step forward in the struggle against homophobia, but today there are still no sanctions against homophobic and transphobic violence, acts motivated by the same fear of diversity that threatens immigrants every day. On this issue, we turn our attention to the bill on citizenship rights, awaited by over one million youth of the “second generation.” We understand that defining a political agenda of positive action against racist, sexist, homophobic, and ageist discrimination can inaugurate a true “season of rights” and curb the regressive movement overtaking more and more countries. Too many social groups are denied recognition as rights-bearing subjects, as individuals with talent and skills, as agents who can impact the narrative of this country, as people who have the right to aspire to meaningful job opportunities for themselves and for the collective—first and foremost in the creative industries, which represent a strategic sector of economic development and at the same time serve as a window showcasing Italian identity to the rest of the world. Too many professionals are asked to work for free, a trend that only discourages people who come from disadvantaged backgrounds and marginalized groups. Only a policy of fair compensation in the sectors of the creative industries can guarantee the development of our human resources in general, and help us achieve higher levels of diversity. Constant attention should be given to those associations and small producers who are promoting a culture of diversity in audiovisual works, performing arts, and in the media, through events in Italy and the creation of digital humanities platforms.

In the reading of bill no. 2287 and in the amendments proposed after the committee process (which did include professionals with legitimate observations), we noted a lack of awareness of one of the reasons for the gap that separates our industries from those of our “competitor” countries on the international market: the limited appeal of our narratives on the national and international markets is also caused by a lack of inclusiveness and pluralism, which has clipped the wings of our creative industries—from audiovisual works to the performing arts to the media. It is not surprising that the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and other countries that have accepted this social change have experienced greater market success.

We are therefore formulating some requests with respect to the bill. First of all, we include the principle of diversity as an orienting criterion for its measures—understood both as an opening for symbolic initiatives, and also as the proactive involvement of individuals who represent diversity in terms of gender (women), sexual orientation, age, national origin, dis/ability, religion, social background, and legal status. To implement this principle concretely, we propose to include the following amendments:

  1. PLURALISM AND INCLUSION

Section II (Cinema and audiovisual works), Chapter I (General provisions) opens with Article 3 (Principles) and reads, “1. State support for film and audiovisual works: a) guarantees pluralism in film and television.” It continues by elaborating six other general principles, finishing with letter g). We propose to integrate the following into this first article: “guarantees pluralism in film and television, and specifies diversity politics that will expand the base of actors and audiences, making them more inclusive and plural.

  1. LONG-TERM RESIDENCE AS NATIONALITY

Article 5, which concerns the Italian nationality of works, provides that “The Italian nationality of cinematographic and audiovisual works is determined by taking into consideration the following parameters: a) Italian (or other European Union country) nationality of the director, the writer, the screenwriter, the majority of the main performers or secondary performers, or the cinematographer,” etc. We propose, instead, as the first parameter: “Italian (or other European Union country) nationality or long-term residence in Italy or in another European Union country,” etc. This way, access to the profession will also be open to long-term residents.

We use the same logic to correct Article 13 (Admission requirements and cases for exclusion). In Clause 1, where the current text states that “access to the benefits provided by this legislation is subject to the recognition of Italian nationality,” we suggest amending the text to read: “access to the benefits provided by this legislation is subject to the recognition of Italian nationality, provided that the presence of technical or artistic cast members who are long-term residents contributes to a positive evaluation of the work’s Italian nationality.” 

  1. APPOINTMENT OF THE SUPERIOR BOARD OF FILM AND AUDIOVISUAL WORKS

Article 10 introduces a new body, the Superior Board of “Film and Audiovisual Works,” whose responsibility is to provide “advice and support in in the development and implementation of policies concerning the sector” (art. 2). In Article 4, we read that the Board “is to be composed of 10 members […], in accordance with principle of gender parity.” We propose to go even further by requesting that at least one third of the members represent diversity identities.

We understand that the measures we have proposed here will not be enough. Another important lever for promoting diversity is through representation in public film and theater schools, and in private schools that receive public funding, such the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, the Accademia d’Arte Drammatica Silvio D’Amico, and the Scuola d’Arte Cinematografica Gian Maria Volonté. In our opinion, the government should enhance its higher education programs, requiring the introduction of criteria for the selection of students and faculty. By ensuring their merit, the skills and talents of these candidates will open the way to a new generation of audiovisual workers and performance artists who express the plural identity of our country. We hope and wish that these schools, just like movie theaters, can become spaces of visual education and encounter for people of all identities: indeed, the cost of access should be monitored so that the experience of cinema does not become elitist at any stage of the production chain. The same considerations should be given to other public institutions of excellence that showcase Italian culture, such as the Biennale di Venezia, of course taking into consideration the specific needs of these programs.

Even public radio and television needs to be disrupted. The report Europa Media Diversità, by the association Carta di Roma, demonstrated that RAI lags far behind with respect to other public and private broadcasters in Europe and North America, which have enacted strong internal policies to promote diversity in terms of both programming and human resources. The Italian system of radio and television broadcasting is struggling to move away from the ideal-type consumer who is young, male, able-bodied, wealthy, heterosexual, Catholic, and generally conservative. It was only in 2013 that some foreign residents were included in the Auditel survey sample. TV series that have garnered some interest like È arrivata la felicità and Tutto può succedere do not form part of any coherent business strategy. A reform of Italian radio and television broadcasting should recognize the principle of diversity as a strategic cultural value to be defended and as a stimulus for change. For that reason, we ask that even the appointment of executives be treated as an expression of pluralism.

We have used the term diversity many times. We understand the risks that can lurk behind a catchall term such as this one, including the fact that it can reaffirm the normative qualities of the dominant “ideal type.” At the same time, we are convinced that inaugurating a season of affirmative action, built on best practices from abroad as well as the specific characteristics of the Italian situation, would represent an essential step for guaranteeing a more complex and equitable form of growth in the creative industries. It would also contribute to the production of a more complex and effective narration of our country. More inclusive. More responsive to the many articulations of Italian society. One that is more compelling for national and international audiences.

 

Contributors: Leonardo De Franceschi, with Giulia Grassilli, Suranga Deshapriya Katugampala, Nadia Kibout, Fred Kuwornu, Razi Mohebi, Alfie Nze, Chiara Zanini, Reda Zine

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