Audit shows "gross racial inequity" when it comes to film funding in BC

Feb 9 2022, 9:24 pm

A new racial equity audit from British Columbia’s Knowledge Network suggests there is a dire need for more funding for people of colour in the province.

That’s the message from members of the Vancouver Asian Film Festival (VAFF) and other affiliates.

VAFF has been doing advocacy work for over a year and says the report shows provides “stark quantitative evidence to what many have experienced personally: the gross racial inequity in funding at British Columbia’s sole provincially funded broadcaster.”

The audit covers a seven-year period from the 2015/16 fiscal year to 2021/22, and was released in collaboration with the Racial Equity Screen Office and the Documentary Organization of Canada (RESO).

During that time, only 1.7% of the $2.054 million of pre-license funding was spent on commissioning works from majority racialized-owned production firms. By comparison, during the same period, Knowledge Network invested 98.3% of its pre-license funding to white-owned production firms. Nothing went to Indigenous majority-owned firms.

When it comes to second-window pre-licence distribution, 18% of Knowledge Network’s funding went to majority racialized-owned production firms, with 4% to majority Indigenous-owned firms and 78% to non-diverse firms.

“These numbers implicate Knowledge Network in a system of racial injustice that has hampered the careers of a generation of Indigenous, Black, and racialized filmmakers,” said Nilesh Patel of the Documentary Organization of Canada’s British Columbia, Yukon and Northwest Territories Chapter and Interim Executive Director of the Racial Equity Screen Office in an online statement.

“It is time to centre work owned by Indigenous, Black, and racialized creators, and to invest in the Indigenous, Black, and racialized producers.”

Founder of the VAFF and RESO affiliate Barbara Lee said in a statement she and her colleagues were “heartbroken for all those filmmakers from the BIPOC community over these seven years, and without a doubt, the years before that, who were made to feel their voices and stories were not valued or compelling enough by their own broadcaster.”

“We know that Knowledge is not alone in this, and we do credit Knowledge Network for having the courage to uncover the depths of the damage they have inflicted,” she said.

“This is just one example of systemic racism in action where the blame can not be cast on one, but everyone in the system should be held responsible and accountable for the harm done to underrepresented communities.”

She added the only path forward is for municipal, provincial, and federal broadcasters to set specific equity targets for commissioning, pre-licensing, and acquisition.

Targets are suggested in the audit, suggesting 25% of Knowledge Original documentary features and shorts go to independent Indigenous production companies and 50% go to Black and people of colour in BC.

Still, there’s a long road ahead to dismantling systemic injustice within the BC production industry. VAFF also encourages Knowledge to act on its targets of prioritizing accessibility for viewers with disabilities, collecting race-based data, and more.

Aly LaubeAly Laube

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