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Swedish Film Institute Introduces New Program Against Sexual Harassment

The Swedish Film Institute announced a new sexual harassment training program this week in response to a series of recent scandals in the industry. Production companies are required to participate if they wish to receive funding.

The institute will roll out a full-day program intended to educate producers and filmmakers about what constitutes sexual harassment and what behaviour is unacceptable in the workplace. Participants who pass the course will receive a “green card” which enables them to apply for Swedish Film Institute (SFI) subsidies. The program is set to start in 2018.

 Swedish Film Institute building, Stockholm. Source:  Holger.Ellgaard/WikiMedia

Swedish Film Institute building, Stockholm. Source: Holger.Ellgaard/WikiMedia

Sweden is one of a growing number of countries caught up in major sexual harassment scandals. Some are dubbing the now-global movement the ‘Weinstein Effect’, with revelations about powerful Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s behavior serving as a catalyst for women across the globe to come forward with their own experiences of sexual misconduct.

A letter published by Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet on November 10th called out the country’s film and theatre industry for failing to address its sexual harassment culture. Actress Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl, Ex Machina) was among the 600 women who signed their names to it.

 Alicia Vikander. Source:  Gage Skidmore/WikiMedia

Alicia Vikander. Source: Gage Skidmore/WikiMedia

“Directors, you have failed,” the letter reads, “Producers, you have failed. Production companies, you have failed. Theatre managers, you have failed. Politicians, you have failed. It is your responsibility to ensure that nobody is sexually abused at the workplace.”

Svenska Dagbladet also included multiple first-hand accounts of sexual harassment from unnamed women within the industry.

“At one of my first jobs, in the theatre elevator, I was pushed up against the wall by an actor in the same production and told to come to his dressing room at three o'clock, otherwise I would not continue working at the theatre,” wrote one woman.

The SFI decision came just five days after the letter’s publication.

“Sexual harassment absolutely needs to be defined to draw the line — it is still frequent to see men with power consciously using sexual harassment to get what they want and firm up their power,” said the institute’s CEO, Anna Serner, “We hope the program will prompt some real change. We don’t want to see blood; we just want to see change.”

 Anna Serner. Source:  Frankie Fouganthin/WikiMedia

Anna Serner. Source: Frankie Fouganthin/WikiMedia

This is not the first time Serner and her organization have sought to address gender issues within the film industry. The SFI-run website Nordic Women in Film describes itself as “a knowledge bank and source of inspiration about women in Swedish film.” In outlining its purpose, the website states: “Our ambition is to try to set the record straight by re-writing the history of moving pictures in the Nordic region from a feminist point of view.”

In 2015, the SFI established equal-gender funding: 50 percent for male directors and 50 percent for females ones.

"When I took over, we had 26 percent of funding going to female directors. I said that was a catastrophe,” Serner told The Sydney Morning Herald.

This reallocation of funding made Sweden one of the first countries to initiate tangible change in regards to female representation. Time will tell whether their new sexual harassment program will have the same kind of success.