It is the second year in a row that Venice has featured just one film by a woman among the 21 vying for the Golden Lion top prize
The Venice film festival was slammed for its "toxic masculinity" as it opened Yesterday with just one female director represented among its most mouth-watering line-up in decades.
With Hollywood effectively turning the festival into its launch pad for the Oscars with new films by Damien Chazelle, the Coen brothers, Alfonso Cuaron and Lady Gaga's much-hyped screen debut, feminists have lashed the organizers for choosing only one film by a female director.
It is the second year in a row that Venice has featured just one film by a woman among the 21 vying for the Golden Lion top prize.
Festival director Alberto Barbera declared that he would "rather quit" than give in to pressure for a quota for women after the Cannes, Toronto and Locarno festivals pledged themselves to gender equality.
"Sorry, but we don't buy this anymore," said the European Women's Audiovisual Network in an open letter earlier this month. "When Alberto Barbera threatens to quit, he is perpetuating the notion that selecting films by female filmmakers involves lowering standards."
Others blamed a streak of Italian "toxic masculinity" that saw actress and #MeToo campaigner Asia Argento pilloried in her homeland for accusing Harvey Weinstein of rape.
Barbera insisted that he chose the films "on the quality and not the sex of the director," telling reporters that "if we impose quotas, I resign."
He was already under pressure for including a documentary by Bruce Weber, "Nice Girls Don't Stay for Breakfast" despite claims of coercive sexual behaviour by the American fashion photographer made by 15 male models.
Barbera also faced questions over his decision to invite disgraced Hollywood director James Toback to premiere his film "The Private Life of a Modern Woman" at Venice last year.
Toback has been accused of sexual harassment and assault by nearly 400 women, including actresses Julianne Moore, Selma Blair and Rachel McAdams.
"I'm not in a position to judge, to decide if James Toback's behaviour was good or bad," Barbera said.
But even the row over women directors cannot take the shine off the way Barbera has turned around the world's oldest film festival.