Gender equality and film joined forces in April 2021 as “Scotland’s leading Spanish cinema mavericks” (The Skinny) CinemaAttic teamed up with Zero Tolerance, a Scottish charity working to end men’s violence against women by promoting gender equality and challenging attitudes that normalise violence and abuse. Working in partnership, the two Scottish charities presented LADS: Toxic Masculinity - an online programme of ten award-winning international short films to rethink masculinity and raise awareness on men’s violence against women.
This selection of films was conceived in the summer of 2020, but became even more relevant and polemic in the light of Sarah Everard’s tragic story. In LADS: Toxic Masculinity CinemaAttic and Zero Tolerance sought to delve into manhood in the 21st century, hoping to leave ill-conceived ideas of “what it is to be a man” behind.
In particular, the selected films looked at the tension between the individual experience of masculinity and group (or gang) masculinity, where anger, dominance and violence are often the only emotions reinforced. These films offered monstrous, pathetic, and empathetic encounters with men around the world, including stories taking place in Yorkshire, Edinburgh, Spain, Philippines, Chile, Argentina or El Salvador.
The term “toxic masculinity” has become even more widely used recently, but beyond the commonplace of the fashionable word, LADS sought to unpack what we mean when we talk about toxic masculinity. We need new male referents, new ways of understanding masculinity and pedagogy to overcome the gender divide, and we hope this programme of films made a positive contribution to the current debate.
In its activity, CinemaAttic aims to present ‘handcrafted’ programmes of world cinema and specialised film to popular audiences in Scotland with enhanced film experiences and a strong social approach.
LADS: Toxic Masculinity intended to broaden public’s understanding of the cause of violence against women, help men to unpack some of the problematic aspects of manhood and encourage everyone to become allies in ending men’s violence against women.
Together with our partners Zero Tolerance, we hoped that this programme’s exploration of toxic masculinity would spur essential discussions about gender norms and gender inequality, which is the root cause of violence against women.
Carefully curated, LADS: Toxic Masculinity was a strong selection of ten international short films awarded in some of the most prestigious film festivals in the world like Amsterdam’s IDFA, Clermont-Ferrand, Locarno Film Festival, Canada’s HotDocs, or IndieLisboa
Approaching an “organic” partner such as Zero Tolerance for a collaboration on this programme enabled us to speak to the current debate on the matter of toxic masculinity and violence against women with both tact and authority, all the while using short films as a medium for inspiring meaningful conversations.
Our #CinemaAtticVermut – a live Facebook and Youtube stream – saw Jo Zawadzka from Zero Tolerance and three of the featured filmmakers - Arantxa Hernández, Álvaro Gago, and Martina Matzkin - share their views on the programme’s theme and engage with audience members from across the UK as well as globally (Spain, Portugal, the USA, India, France, Poland, Germany, Canada, Sweden).
With over 100 online tickets sold, LADS: Toxic Masculinity became the most attended monthly screening of the season for CinemaAttic.
There were 10 films in the programme:
• Extinct Animals - Lucas Quintana Argomedo (2020)
• Gusts of Wild Life - Jorge Cantos (2019)
• El Nombre del Hijo - Martina Matzkin (2019)
• L'Intrus - Oriol Rovira (2020)
• Lonely Rivers - Mauro Herce (2019)
• 16 Decembro - Alvaro Gago (2019)
• Gang - Alex Sardà Fuster (2019)
• #Lockdown - Alex Della Ciana (2020)
• City of Children - Arantxa Hernandez (2019)
• Unforgivable - Marlén Viñayo (2020)
CinemaAttic curate monthly short film programmes in the hopes of creating a space for important discussions and amplifying stories that need to be heard. In the case of LADS: Toxic Masculinity, the matter at hand was a remarkably sensitive issue that we did not feel equipped to tackle on our own. Looking to make a valuable contribution to the ongoing debate, we approached Zero Tolerance. Their guidance in correctly communicating our messaging and help in increasing the programme’s visibility was one of the deciding factors in making this event such a success.
Budget in brief
(Donated £125 to Zero Tolerance and £80 to Scottish Women’s Aid)
On top of that:
TOTAL SALES £ 448.00
FestHome (online) £ 448.00
TOTAL COSTS. £ 513.90
Room Hire LH. £ -
Alcohol licence. £-
Festhome fee. £ 50.00
VimeoPro monthly fee. £ 18.90
Programme Cost. £ 325.00
SumUp fees. £ -
Promotion Facebook. £ 120.00
A “catchy” title and a strong film selection thematically curated to tie in with a hot current affairs topic made for higher visibility of the programme despite its highly specialized nature (international short films).
Advance planning of the partnership and coordinated actions at the time of launching the programme helped create the buzz around it, which was further enhanced by the press coverage in The Sunday Post and varied engagement across the social media channels.
The backing of a strong niche partner provided access to new audiences who would be interested in engaging with the subject but had not been exposed to CinemaAttic´s film offering before.
Having Zero Tolerance representative participate in the live streamed CinemaAttic Vermut also added substance and a new angle to our discussion with featured filmmakers and helped attract new audiences to the platform.
Sliding scale ticketing and the promise of donating proceeds from ticket sales to Zero Tolerance and Scottish Women’s Aid resulted in us doubling our expected admissions.
What has been difficult
The principal challenge consisted in presenting a programme of films on the very sensitive topic of gender violence amidst the events of the spring of 2021. We felt it was essential to take our messaging and how it was delivered very seriously in order to make a valuable contribution to the public debate and do our best to have a positive impact on attitudes and behaviours in our society. Having the support and expertise of Zero Tolerance was undoubtedly key in us being able to pursue this educational objective of the programme.
The back end of presenting an online programme of films posed a challenge because that month, we made the decision to switch from INDY On Demand back to Festhome TV. We were hoping to embed the latter into our own website as CinemaAttic Player and sell our own tickets using an e-commerce feature, to give us more control over the VOD and box office operations. In hindsight, this move required more advance planning to ensure a smoother user’s journey during the event.
What you would do differently if you did it again
In the back end of our operations, we came to realise that trying to embed a Festhome player window into our own website only made the user experience more difficult (as demonstrated by the several tech queries we received while the programme was live and had to address by producing an explanatory tutorial video), so we made the decision to go back to the original Festhome page in the months that followed.
Another learning for our team was to increase visibility of trigger and content warnings in the player itself. Even though all programme descriptions featured relevant warnings, some of the audience members did not find them prominent enough while watching the films (as fed back to us via our post-event audience survey). We have since developed a design template for film banners to ensure we avoid this in the future.
Awareness / Attitudes
While all our programmes strive to have a message at their heart, LADS’s educational aspect came to the forefront most prominently. We believe we managed to fuse our forte (short films) with the expertise of our partners at Zero Tolerance (promoting gender equality and challenging attitudes that normalise violence and abuse) in order to enhance the public’s awareness and understanding of toxic masculinity.
By highlighting multiple stories and experiences from around the globe through the medium of brilliant short films, our ambition was to enable our audiences to explore the polemic subject of gender norms, to challenge their attitudes and to ignite crucial conversations across the different age groups and sections of society.
Although resolving the deeper underlying causes of violence against women with a single programme of short films is impossible, we know we made our contribution in the best way we know how: by introducing our audiences to world cinema worth watching.
- To make the event more accessible to a wider public, CinemaAttic and Zero Tolerance have introduced a Pay-What-You-Can ticketing system.
- All films and the CinemaAttic Vermut feature English subtitles.
We felt that dedicating one of our monthly short film programmes to a topical issue of toxic masculinity in the immediate aftermath of Sarah Everard’s tragedy allowed us to create a safe space for reflection and discussion.
Despite the fact that LADS: Toxic Masculinity was only being shown online, engagement and feedback we received across the multiple digital channels suggests that we contributed to greater social cohesion by bringing audiences together as allies of women in the ongoing battle against violence and gender inequality.
What audiences said
“Some of the content was difficult to watch and consider but, as it was a kind of promotion of Zero Tolerance, whose work I support unstintingly, I felt it was worth grasping the nettle.”
“Keep doing the good work, guys”
What professionals, press and partners said
We worked with CinemaAttic to increase awareness of violence against women and girls and to broaden public’s understanding of prevention. In our partnership work with CinemaAttic we valued professionalism and great collaborative working.
Thank you very much for inviting us to partner with you on this project. I am very happy to hear that many people found toxic masculinity as a topic interesting. I am confident that the brilliant selection of movies played a huge part in helping people engage.
The event we’ve jointly organised was a very valuable addition to our campaigns and engagement work and we would be very keen to work with them in the future.