The Start of Something New at Berlinale's European Film Market

Lissa Deonarain • May 9, 2023

The seeds of change have started to take root in Europe’s film landscape. This year, the European Film Market (EFM) kicked off the first ever Equity and Inclusion Pathways Seminar, which is part of a three-year initiative to transform the European film industry at all levels from organizational practices to continent-wide policies. Each year will build on the next, with year one for setting the political agenda, year two for shifting to an intermediate political level and year three finally enacting the political agenda.

Alongside European stakeholders and other advocacy groups, BGDM was invited to join the seminar to vote on five community-proposed resolutions that will guide the groups work over the next few years. Gathering in the hall at the Documentation Center, the day was jam-packed with presentations, lively and somewhat heated discussions, and decision making. One of the most beautiful parts of this seminar was the amount of representation, and the sharing of language. “Marginalized” was often replaced with “protected classes” and BIPOC switched to “Black and Global Majority.”


There’s a popular motto popularized by the disability rights movement: “Nothing about us without us.” Adopted by other groups subjected to oppression, it became a rallying cry of the day to take back autonomy over our lives – and our stories.

Trans media consultant Charlie Hidalgo and Trans advocate Dana Aliya Levinson spoke to the need to have diverse Trans stories where Trans people are embedded throughout the decision-making pipelines — especially people who understand the media industry. Initiatives like The Stereotype Project and ARTEF presented the ways they’re creating tools and building processes to keep the industry accountable so that there are no more excuses for reinforcing harmful and dangerous narratives. The Canada Media Fund, the Indigenous Screen Office, and Black Screen Office shared how they are dedicating specific resources, services and attention to the unique needs and challenges these two groups face.

On the forefront of change in the industry are the “European Lighthouses,” shining a light toward the future. New Dawn is a collective fund made up of 10 public funds to support the true diversity of “perspectives, filmic expressions and relevance for everyone,” and showing continent-wide, collective action can happen. Representing the equity-seeking groups in Europe were International Sámi Film Institute, Collectif 50/50, and RomaTrial. From film festivals to mentorship programs, these groups have established spaces — by and for themselves.

Race and marginalization are perceived and understood differently across the world. As a U.S.-based organization with a global membership, we need to know how to support our members, no matter where they’re located. We’re excited to be part of this journey with EFM and to be part of this charge for transformation.


This year, EFM also held their first ever Doc Toolbox Programme, which supports feature-length documentary filmmakers from marginalized and underrepresented groups with resources, connections and industry access. In this inaugural cohort were a handful of BGDM members including Aisha Jamal, Heather Giugni, Colleen Thurston, Riani Singgih, Sharon Yeung and Victoria Catherine Chan. Many of these talents bonded over being BGDM members, and even spread the word of our work to their fellow Toolbox participants.

To close out the first weekend at the festival, we had to do it BGDM style and held a meetup at a tapas bar not far from the festival. Bringing together members from across the world, there’s nothing that brings you together than sharing a good meal, letting loose and cheersing to these times that bring us all together!

Lissa Deonarain
Lissa Deonarain

Lissa Deonarain (she/they) is a queer, disabled, multiracial Guyanese-American documentary filmmaker, editor, communications specialist and producer. She has produced films around the world, and worked with award-winning directors.