The Swedish Film Institute celebrates 50 years with an international equality initiative

In Cannes today the Swedish Film Institute organised a press reception to celebrate its 50th anniversary. But instead of the usual celebratory fireworks, it issued a challenge to the film world.

Photo: Jan Göransson/Swedish Film Institute
Anna Serner at the press reception in Cannes. Photo: Jan Göransson/Swedish Film Institute

The press reception got underway with a few facts:

• More than 1000 films have competed for Cannes’ prestigious Palme d’Or the past 50 years– 54 of them have been directed by women. Only one of those has won, and that was 20 years ago.

• Four people from the more than 400 who have been nominated for an Oscar for best director have been women. One of those has won.

• In Sweden women have directed roughly 10% of all the feature films of the last 50 years. Eight women have won a Swedish Guldbagge award for best director in the last 50 years, five of them in the last ten years.

Anna Serner, CEO of the Swedish Film Institute:

– This isn’t good enough. Film is perhaps the most important of all art forms, affecting society and helping us to understand ourselves and our times. If film is to stay relevant in the future, it has to reflect society in terms of whose voices are heard, whose stories are told and who is represented.

Directives from the Swedish government and film industry now stipulate that funding provided by the Swedish Film Institute must be divided equally between women and men. Anna Serner spoke of this and presented the five-point plan for change that the Swedish Film Institute has drawn up in response.

The plan involves setting up a mentor and change programme for women about to make their second feature film, a research project to look at structures within the film industry, an increased focus on information and statistics, initiatives for young women wishing to enter the film industry and a Nordic website to showcase women – Nordic Women in Film. See attached.

Anna Serner:
– We could just use quotas and divide our support 50/50. But we don’t think it’s the way to go if you want real and lasting change. For that you have to change the structures, and that’s why we’ve launched our action plan.

– But now we’re issuing our challenge to the entire film world with the questions: How are you operating? How can we bring about change together? It’s up to everyone – film festivals, film institutes and funds, and everyone who makes films.

Augmented Society

Another new initiative on the theme of film and society was presented at the reception: the website Augmented Society ( – It features articles and comments from people invited to discuss topical events or issues with special reference to films.

Anna Serner:
– There are numerous examples of how films have changed both laws and public opinion. The film industry needs to be better at reaching out to other parts of society with our work. People need film to understand and relate to the complex issues of our time.

The first theme out of the blocks is equality, with written contributions from ABBA’s Benny Andersson, Sweden’s Minister for Culture Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth and Anna Serner.

Published 20/05/2013   Changed 20/05/2013