Ventana Sur: Industry Luminaries Converge, Talk Women In Cinema by Holly Jones

BUENOS AIRES – Ventana Sur’s Opening Windows conference series welcomed an esteemed line-up of women in film to Buenos Aires’ UCA campus on Wednesday afternoon for a panel that sought to familiarize the audience with the enormous weight of breaking into a male-dominated industry throughout the years.

Among the panelists was Argentine Producer Lita Stantic, who has been in the industry since she swapped out her career as a journalist in the ‘60s. She recalls, “I was 20 years old, and there were no women in cinema, and I studied journalism because I wanted to be, let’s say, I thought that the only way to be near cinema was to write film criticism.” She then went on to regale the audience with her inspiring foray into film that began when she started creating short films, continuing to have an illustrious career as a producer, working on films like “La Ciénaga,” and “Un Muro De Silencio.”

When describing a sobering moment of enlightenment, Beatriz Navas, general director of Spain’s ICAA film agency and Madrid-based audiovisual programmer and researcher, pointed out, “It’s like one day you’re speaking with a friend about the day you had a punch to your head. Let’s say this is the day you suddenly discover that you’ve been living in a kind of matrix. You watch TV, open the newspaper, and suddenly everything looks like satire.”

Navas went on to talk about the pointed comment that changed her,” a very good friend of mine told me that the problem with women was that we didn’t have the capacity to fascinate people with our stories,” she said.

“It was strange because I’m able to fascinate myself very easily with anything. I got very angry….After that blow to the head ,you start analyzing your life. I went through a series of events that hurt me a lot and made me change.”

Rocio Juadue, Chilean executive producer with Fabula who’s worked on films such as “Neruda,” and “Gloria Bell,” then spoke to her generation, one that’s seemingly benefited from the women that came before them.

“I feel that because I am a little younger, it’s been a little easier. In college, one of my favorite professors was a Chilean mountaineer named Andrea Chignoli. She was one of my mentors because besides being a great mountaineer she has a very strong character. She taught me how to face, and stand up to, directors like the ones she’s dealt with every day,” Juadue relayed.

She continued, “So I think that we join forces. I think that working together, it’s been much easier to meet the obstacles that can be present with men so talented and powerful. It’s been quite equitable in my case.”

Frida Torresblanco, CEO of Braven Films and a producer of “Pan’s Labyrinth,” addressed the women in the audience, stating, “Life has changed a lot in the last six years. You, you’re the fruits of that labor, the generation that will be able, perhaps, to enjoy more inclusion.”

The panel was moderated by Argentine director and screenwriter María Victoria Menis, who spoke to trends in the industry, “We have some very discouraging data regarding the numbers of women and men in film. There’s something very striking, and that is, in the polls, around 60% of those enrolled in film school are women, 40% are men. Ten years later, and around 65% of men are working in the field and only 35% are women. That’s the trend, at least in Latin America.”

Through revisiting their own experiences trudging uphill, the panel furnished an eager audience with a comprehensive peek into the career trajectory of women in film past and present. The panelists offered pertinent solutions that included ensuring film crews are staffed with more women, producing films from strong female perspectives, and lending a hand to other women entering the industry. While the room shared a few laughs, the group sent a resounding reminder that there is still plenty of work to be done.

“Everyone, at their own level, is trying to fight their own small battles and those small battles are what everyone here today should choose to fight. Extend your hands to other women with the intent of helping them, boost them up,” concluded Torresblanco.