“Women They Talk About”: A Groundbreaking Gender Parity Initiative at the AFI Catalog of Feature Films

In 2019, the AFI Catalog of Feature Films embarked upon a new, three-year initiative titled “Women They Talk About” to support unprecedented empirical research about the role of gender throughout the first century of the American film industry, 1893-1993. With generous grant funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and The David and Lura Lovell Foundation, the project will repurpose AFI’s uniquely comprehensive, academic data to secure early female filmmakers in the historical canon. “Women They Talk About,” named after the 1928 feature film, is specifically designed to use data as a narrative tool to engender the true story of women as forerunners in the industry. When the project launches to the public in 2022, user-generated and application-driven reports will be presented with data visualizations on the AFI Catalog homepage and at AFI.com to illustrate, and authenticate, women’s contributions, and to position gender parity as a foundational element of cultural, economic and labor history.

AFI Catalog researchers are revisiting records for pre-1930 releases to enhance documentation and add previously uncredited names to be integrated in report outcomes. Concurrently, AFI Catalog developers are creating database upgrades specifically for gender research. For example, AFI Catalog users will be able to evaluate actual data for the first time about widely circulated but unsubstantiated theories that women represented 50% of silent era story and scenario writers. The project aims to open doors beyond these immediate applications to prompt discoveries yet to be imagined. Collaborating with historians, educators and research institutions worldwide, AFI will bring the pioneering work of female filmmakers into the vernacular to ensure they are, indeed, “Women They Talk About.”

Read more about “Women They Talk About” here.