CASE STUDY: Statistically Significant Gender Bias at The Jerusalem Film Lab

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Recent reports have brought to light concerns regarding gender bias at The Jerusalem Film Lab’s 10th lab event, held in 2020. (Another case from 2024 is reported here) Statistical analysis indicates a probability of 99.984% for gender-based bias influencing the proceedings of the event, including the selection of winning projects at the event. The details of this calculation are presented below. During this period, the film lab was lead by Aurit Zamir, an Israeli producer.

Event Overview: In this event, 12 feature film projects were selected for a year-long workshop. To assess alleged gender bias, we assume that there are an equal number of male and female filmmakers with comparable talent levels. Below are the relevant details concerning the event:

Project Selection:

  • Of the twelve selected projects:
    • 8 were led by Women.
    • 4 were led by Men.

Over the 12 months period, three guests were invited to speak at the event:

  • Eliza Hittman (Female)
  • Joan Tewkesbury (Female)
  • Alma Har’el (Female)

At the end of the event, seven jury members were invited to select the award winners:

  • Frédéric Boyer (Male)
  • Maya Amsellem (Female)
  • Sandrine Brauer (Female)
  • Ifat Irani (Female)
  • Dea Kulumbegashvili (Female)
  • Aranka Matits (Female)
  • Ziv Naveh (Female)

Four Award Winners were selected:

  • Netalie Braun (Female)
  • Marianna Brennand Fortes (Female)
  • Myrsini Aristidou (Female)
  • Odeya Rosnak (Female)

    The total probability of all four events happening under the assumption of a gender-neutral selection process, is just 0.0117%, meaning a 99.9883% chance for gender bias. The exact calculation is presented below.

Interestingly, in a 2019 Facebook post (one year before the event) Aurit Zamir expressed interest in the gender distribution within the film industry, specifically exploring potential biases. The post indicated a preoccupation with gender in industry roles. However, as it can be seen above, during the Film Lab’s 10th event in 2020, instead of making decisions based on merit, as it would be expected, there have been a significant and unnatural inclination towards a certain gender in the selection of participants, speakers, jury members, and award winners.

Film Industry Watch advocates for unequivocal equality of opportunity in both the film sector and society broadly. We believe every individual deserves equal treatment, irrespective of gender, race, sexual orientation, or other characteristics. It’s crucial to distinguish ‘equality of opportunity’ from ‘equality of outcome.’ The latter suggests enforcing uniform outcomes through reverse discrimination. Instead, we support nurturing equal opportunities from the outset, emphasizing enhanced education and financial assistance for underprivileged communities.

Historically, traditional liberalism pursued a society indifferent to race and color, focusing on individual merit and abilities. However, the contemporary narrative often emphasizes identity—race, gender, and other inherent attributes—over merit. This approach, which imposes “top-down” equality, masks the underlying issues of society rather than address them directly. By focusing on superficial equality of outcome, it treats the symptoms rather than the root causes and promotes further division and discrimination. It’s essential to tackle society’s foundational problems to achieve genuine, lasting equality.

For this lab, it would have been more transparent and respectful for the organizers to openly state their intention to support the women in the group by dedicating the awards to them. This would have allowed the men to make an informed decision about their participation, rather than obliging them to engage in what might feel like a predetermined and unfair process. Such upfront communication could prevent the waste of time and the perception of bias, ensuring a more honest and respectful environment for all participants.

We urge organizations championing equality through a “top-down” approach and focusing on ‘equality of outcome’ to be transparent about their objectives and methodologies. It’s important that they clearly communicate their intentions beforehand, enabling potential participants to make a well-informed decision about whether to engage with their programs. This proactive transparency is crucial for maintaining trust and respect among all involved.

Gender Bias Calculation:

To calculate the gender bias in this event, we need to consider the distribution of opportunities (project selections, speaker invitations, jury positions, and award selection) between men and women. Since we’re assuming that there are an equal number of male and female filmmakers and equal talent levels, any significant deviation from a 50/50 distribution might indicate a bias. The calculation was done twice, by two different mathematicians, to ensure that the method used, and results, are correct:

Second calculation by a different mathematician, to ensure accuracy.

Our organization is dedicated to unveiling the true decision-making processes and power dynamics within the film industry. The chart below provides a comprehensive summary of these elements. Our goal is to democratize access and provide talented, emerging young filmmakers with the opportunities they rightfully deserve to succeed in the industry.

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