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Screening of the film “Licht” On the occasion of International Women’s Day

Strasbourg , 

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Ladies and gentlemen,

The Council of Europe Secretariat has a well-established tradition of marking International Women’s Day: a valuable practice that helps raise staff awareness of women’s rights issues.

This year we are proud to screen the film “Licht” and honoured that its director, Barbara Albert, is here with us today and will lead an audience discussion at the end of the screening.

In an industry where men often dominate – including the number of directors – Ms Albert is a proven advocate for gender equality, whose commitment and leadership are plain to see.

She is a co-founder of FC Gloria, the Austrian association for women in film;

She is a member of Pro Quota Regie, the German organisation that lobbies for quotas of female directors when it comes to funding decisions;

And she also took part in the 2018 Berlin Film Festival panel discussion that launched the Council of Europe’s Recommendation on Gender Equality in the Audiovisual Sector.

Indeed our European Cinema Support Fund – EURIMAGES – is working hard to promote the role of women both in front of the camera, and behind it, as part of its “Aiming for 50/50 by 2020” programme.

EURIMAGES has focussed on gender equality issues for a number of years now and this of course dovetails with our Organisation’s current Gender Equality Strategy, adopted last year.

Its all-round approach aims to build on previous measures combatting gender-based violence and discrimination, to ensure that women have proper access to justice, and to guide us towards new standards in tackling sexism – whether in education and the workplace, or on the internet and social media.

The film that you are about to watch is the director’s first historical drama, but it highlights themes that are immediately recognisable to many women.

Its main protagonist, Maria Theresia Paradis, is a blind pianist, composer and teacher, torn between her extraordinary musical talent and her desire to live a more conventional life as a sighted person.

Confidence, conformity, independence, autonomy and personal choice: all of these feature in this film.

The real-life Maria Theresia was very well-known in her day, but the vast majority of her work has been lost and her authorship of the significant remaining composition, the Sicilienne for violin and piano, is disputed.

Alas this is not so surprising: the work of many distinguished women artists from her time has been lost – and it is we who are the poorer for that.

Today, the artistic achievements of women are better recognised – but not to the full extent that they should be.

People like Barbara Albert are changing that.

The Council of Europe is signed up to that mission too – and, together, we can make ever greater progress.

I wish each and every one of you a happy International Women’s Day, I hope that you enjoy the film, and that you profit from the discussion that will follow.