About the Diversity at Sehsüchte-Festival

This year, for the first time, there is a diversity management team in the Sehsüchte team. Cansin and Danae know the work at our festival from previous years in other departments. But this year, Sehsüchte needed to be discovered from a different perspective. Danae gives us an insight into her work at the festival: 

The first festival edition after the anniversary holds many chances and opportunities to reflect on old structures and habits and to initiate new ones.

Coming from the motivation to put diversity more in the center of the action. This year, the Diversity Office was introduced, and we would like to inform a little more about its work.

As a student film festival, we see it as our responsibility to contribute to a more diverse and inclusive film festival industry. 

In order to reshape structures, our work starts as a team: In the beginning, Cansin sat down together with this year’s overall coordinator and it was determined what we understand by diversity management and which tasks are involved. To this end, the Equal Opportunity representative Susanne Foidl and Frauke Eckl were always on hand to advise.  

We decided that the diversity manager’s tasks would include developing individual strategies together with the individual festival departments, organizing workshops and discussions to raise awareness among the team, and contacting experts in the fields of equality, representation, accessibility, and barrier-free access in the film festival industry.

To sustainably integrate the diversity office into the festival team, a student assistant position was introduced with the support of Susanne Foidl and Alex Rihl, funded equally by the Sehsüchte Festival, Dean’s Office 1, and the Equal Opportunities Officer.

Eventually, I, Danae, was brought on board starting in November, took over the position, and thus became the contact person for the team regarding the topic of diversity alongside Cansin.

Since we had been involved in Sehsüchte in previous years – albeit in different capacities – and already knew the structures of the festival, it was quickly decided how we could best coordinate our efforts to accomplish the tasks at hand.

So Cansin took over contacting external parties and planning workshops and panels, while I coordinated internal matters. The bulk of this has been conversations with the various departments to log which areas had the potential for development.

After Christmas, a roundtable discussion on diversity was held for the first time with Alex Rihl and the team. The aim was to actively discuss as a group what diversity actually means to us. 

For the most part, we reflected on what our tastes and value judgments are, and whether and which themes of submitted material we would find particularly important, and why. In this way, we would be able to sketch a common perspective, which we would carry together and communicate to the outside world together.

Invited were Skadi Loist (junior professor for production cultures in audiovisual media industries), Natascha Frankenberg (programming of the international women* film festival Dortmund+Köln), Sheri Hagen (actress and producer – Equality Film) and Merle Groneweg (head of Xposed QFF Berlin). Later, an awareness workshop was also organized for the whole team, led by the Misc agency.

In parallel, through contact with Barbara Fickert (Managing Director Kinoblindgänger), the opportunity arose to deal more actively with their own accessibility. A film block with audio description and extended subtitles was created, which you can watch on Friday the 22.04 in the Thalia cinema. Before that, there will also be a workshop on accessibility in film on Thursday 21.04 at the Filmuni.

Furthermore, you can look forward to a panel on diversity strategies in the film industry on Saturday, April 23. Additionally, there will be a panel on Queer Cinema Expanded, featuring the documentaries Gendernauts and Gendernation by Monika Treut to discuss issues of trans* representation and community.

All of this has brought a new wave of challenges.

Since Diversity Management is a new department, we first had to structure it from the very beginning. 

This took a lot of time, and it quickly became clear that many of the steps and discussions should have taken place much earlier, which unfortunately was not possible in this first year.

One of the most important points for us was to contact experts on every possible diversity facet, if possible, because in many areas we are still tied to our own experience, and therefore to the privileges that come with it. Bringing in and making these contacts has been and continues to be a long journey; many of the people we would have liked to bring on board are themselves part of the industry and accordingly could not take the time to support us alongside their work.

As a student film festival, with limited financial resources, it has not been easy to implement our plans as we would have liked. We continue to rely on funding to compensate our guests, staff, and experts for their work, so that roundtables, workshops, and panels can take place at all.

We are aware that sustainable structural changes take time. In addition, our festival is tied to the institution of the Filmuni. Therefore, we hope that this year Sehsüchte will take an important first step towards a more diverse festival landscape, so that new structures can be created beyond Sehsüchte within the university framework.

This year has taught us that diversity is a process in which we are constantly learning. We are confident that Sehsüchte will be able to expand its potential as an institution that represents and takes into account all facets of society in the coming years.

A big thank you for our diversity process this year goes to:

Susanne Foidl, the StuRa, Alfred Koch, Alexander Rihl, Crew United, Trans*fabel, Skadi Loist, Sheri Hagen, Natascha Frankenberg, Merle Groneweg, Agentur Misc, Barbara Fickert and Kinoblindgänger, Joyce Ferse, Greta & Starks, speaker-search, subs – Original mit Untertiteln. 

And of course to the Sehsüchte Team 2022.

Without your support this year, everything that we can already consider a success and all of the learnings would not have been possible.

Here’s to a successful festival (and to even more successful ones in the future!)

Cansin and Danae