Tilda Swinton: gender-neutral acting awards 'inevitable'

In Venice this week, Swinton joined Cate Blanchett in approving Berlin film festival’s removal of gender categories in prizes

It is “inevitable” that gender-neutral awards will become the standard across the film industry and at award shows such as the Oscars and the Baftas, according to Tilda Swinton, who added that the idea of gendered prizes was outmoded.

Swinton, who was speaking at the Venice film festival, where she received a lifetime achievement award this week, said that the decision by the Berlin film festival to consign its gendered acting awards to history was “eminently sensible” and came as a relief.

She said: “It’s just such a waste of life; you know life is too short for this. And so I’m really happy to hear that about Berlin and I think it’s pretty much inevitable that everybody will follow. It’s just obvious to me.”

Swinton joined Cate Blanchett in welcoming the move by Berlin, with the Australian actor – who is heading up the Venice jury this year – saying the categorisation of best actor and actress always jarred with her.

“I have always referred to myself as an actor,” Blanchett said on Wednesday. “I am of the generation where the word actress was used almost always in a pejorative sense. So I claim the other space.”

Swinton added that the idea of dividing people up by characteristics seemed increasingly out of date and that the idea people had to say whether they were “definitively heterosexual, definitively homosexual, definitively male or definitively female” made her sad.

“This is not the way to go,” Swinton said about gendered acting awards. “In every sense, you know, dividing people up and and prescribing a path for them, whether we’re talking about gender, or whether we’re talking about race or about class. It’s just such a waste of life.”

Swinton and Blanchett are two of the major figures who have made the trip to Venice this year. The Covid-19 crisis means the usually starry event is more subdued, with organisers billing it as a beacon of hope for a film industry that has been hit hard by the pandemic.

Pedro Almodovar, who directed Swinton in the short film The Human Voice which debuted at Venice on Thursday, joined the festival’s director Alberto Barbera in encouraging people to return to cinemas rather than turning to streamers for their cinematic needs.

The director said that although streaming sites such as Netflix had been vital during lockdown, he needed physical screenings as a film-maker to understand if his films worked or not.

He said: “It is not possible if my film is shown on Netflix or any other platform for me to have a feeling for how the film is interpreted by the spectator. We need to go back to cinemas after the confinement is over.”

At the festival’s opening press conference, Barbera was joined by Cannes director Thierry Frémaux as the pair warned that Netflix’s increasing subscriber numbers coupled with the permanent closure of cinemas could be fatal unless the industry was united and supported film festivals.

While picking up her award on Wednesday evening, Swinton described Venice as “the most venerable and majestic film festival on Earth”, for continuing despite the challenges presented by the global pandemic and “[reminding] us that some things are going nowhere”.

“We can continue to rely on the great, elastic, wide, wild, bouncy, boundary-less and perpetually inclusive state of cinema,” added Swinton, who ended with a reference to Black Panther, the film which starred Chadwick Boseman. “Viva Venezia. Cinema cinema cinema. Wakanda Forever. Nothing but love.”


Lanre Bakare

The GuardianTramp

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