In 2014, Holly Tarquini, the executive director of the Bath Film Festival in England, came across an article on the dismal gender imbalance in Hollywood and decided to create a special designation to highlight films made by women. So she created the “F-rating,” a designation that over 40 film festivals have since adopted. Now, the Guardian reports that the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), the largest online movie database, has begun using the classification, too.
The state of women in Hollywood, particularly behind the scenes, remains pretty dismal. Despite a greater awareness of the problem over the past few years, in 2016, women made up only 7 percent of directors among the top 250 films — a two percent decline from 2015. With the F-rating system, Tarquini hopes to not just point viewers toward women-made films, but to help right the balance. “This is important because films by and featuring women often have significantly less spent on promotion, so they are more difficult for audiences to find,” she told the Guardian. “As soon as organizations start F-rating their programmes, they screen more films directed by, written by and starring women.”
In an interview with Realscreen earlier this year, Tarquini pointed out that the CEO of IMDb, Colin Needham, lives in Bristol, not far from Bath, and has been supportive of the initiative. A film is tagged with the F-rating if it meets three criteria: It was directed by a woman, written by a woman, or features three “significant” women onscreen. If a movie hits all three, it earns a triple F-rating.
At the moment, the F-rating doesn’t show up prominently on a film’s profile; rather, it’s one of many search options on IMDb’s reference page. But so far, 21,800 films have received the rating, and Tarquini says she’d love to see the designation featured right at the top of a film’s page. The F-rating is kind of like an official recognition of the Bechdel test — a term coined by graphic artist Alison Bechdel to describe a movie that features more than one woman, talking to each other, about something other than a man. Here’s hoping it’ll soon be obsolete.