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The Underplayed Documentary Shines a Light on Gender Inequality in Electronic Music

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After highlighting the issue of “diversity within the music space” in the short film Discwoman several years ago, director Stacey Lee has returned with a documentary that focuses on the routine harassment and lack of equality that women and female-identifying creatives in the world of electronic music have faced for decades. “This isn’t a new phenomenon,” says Lee when asked about the sexism, undervaluing and under-representation that’s explored Underplayed, a new documentary which was produced by Bud Light and premieres at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival on September 19. “Women have been central and instrumental to the whole birth of this industry since the beginning.”

STACEY LEE. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF UNDERPLAYED

Lee’s film offers a voice to a wealth of musical talents ranging from Australian DJ, producer and singer Alison Wonderland and twin sister act Nervo to Los Angeles-based DJ and producer Tokimonsta, Niagara Falls’s Rezz and Grammy winner Suzanne Ciani. It also draws attention to trailblazers like musician and composer Delia Derbyshire.

Lee says that she was shocked at what she uncovered while working on Underplayed, particularly given this wasn’t her first production on the topic. “It was like nothing had evolved,” she says of the four years since her first project hit the screens. “If anything, some of the statistics were worse. It made me realize the urgency surrounding it.” At the core of the film is the notion that for women to gain equal footing with their male counterparts, a revolution — with all voices involved — must happen.

“It’s exceptionally complicated because you don’t want to distract from the art and the craft of what you’re doing by defining yourself as a woman,” says Lee about her documentary subjects. “At the same time, because there’s such inequity in the space, they also have a responsibility to speak up until things are right…. It’s a male responsibility, too. Women can’t be the only ones fighting for this. It’s the same as the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s shouting into an echo chamber if women are the only ones talking about this.”


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