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Spanish women directors provide an exciting model

Because I speak only English fluently I often miss significant contributions from women in film who work primarily in another language: their films, their analysis, their activism. I'm aware there are amazing things happening at women's film festivals in Asia, for instance, and lots in Europe, too. But it's often a challenge to find details from the other side of the world. In Spain however, CIMA (Asociacion de mujeres cineastas y de medios audiovisuales) —based in Madrid— has initiated a unique and exciting project, the European Network of Women in the Audiovisual World (EWA), and they welcome our participation even if we don't live in Europe. Spread the word?!

Spanish women directors established CIMA (now with hundreds of members) because they observed the very low participation of women in key positions in the Spanish audiovisual industry, the difficulties young women had when they wanted to join the profession and the difficulties women had to maintain a stable career. They were also concerned that as creators women are often ignored or excluded and that most movies and television series include biased and manipulative content that presents unrealistic and sexist stereotypes of women, men, gender relations and how to face the world. None of this is new. But the way CIMA's addressing the issues seems different to me than what's happening in other countries. It's visionary, especially in its global orientation, and its work inspires me.

Almost exactly two years ago CIMA held a meeting of over 100 women in film and TV and new technologies, from fifteen European countries, to discuss their concerns. The Compostela Declaration that followed confirmed that the problems for women in Spain were shared by women throughout Europe. The Declaration stated that:
The very low percentage of women in key-jobs of the European audiovisual sector is unfair because it leaves an important part of the European population voiceless. It wastes talent, energy and experience both behind and in front of the camera, and it seriously affects the audiovisual media content which generates our image of the world. This situation undermines the diversity and cultural pluralism of the democratic system we all want to achieve.

After this, CIMA created EWA, "to achieve progress in establishing gender equality in the audiovisual world" and a digital platform:
a. To contain a database of all the professional women in the sector
To exchange information, experiences and projects 

c. To create an employment board 

d. To forge and consolidate an industry market.
I understand that the digital platform will go live in May. In the meantime, CIMA holds regular meetings with institutions and organizations in central government and at regional level, establishes links with other similar national and international organisations, and participates in numerous festivals that share CIMA's and EWA's goals. It promotes equal involvement of women in events that involve the circulation and display of audio-visual media—contests, festivals, exhibitions, awards. And it's about to introduce  the ESQUENOHAY ("they don't exist") Awards to highlight and promote the best film, television or media work, written, performed or produced by women with the aim of "promoting a more realistic and positive image of the feminine gender".

Inés París at the International Women's Film Festival, Cologne 2012
I welcomed the Compostela Declaration, and love CIMA's holistic, inclusive, strategy and the way the group is implementing it. This interview is with CIMA president Inés París (an actor, prolific writer for television and film and writer/director of three features: My Mother Likes Women; Semen, A Love Sample; Miguel and William) and Carla Reyes (the EWA manager, a journalist and producer).

Q. In Spain, 7% of feature directors are women. Women write 15% of the scripts. They are only 20% of the producers. This is similar to most European countries. Why has this leadership come from Spain and not another country?

Spain is a country with contradictions. We have a machismo tradition, in cinema and in television. But for some years we’ve also had a group of laws about equality. Since 2007 we’ve had the Ley de Igualdad (Equality Law) which gives us the legal protection to fight for our rights and encourages women’s activism, like CIMA.

Q. CIMA and EWA are the first women’s screen organizations I know of that are led by directors, the storytellers. As I understand it, women writers and directors are not strongly active within Women in Film & Television, for instance, wherever in the world a branch of the organization exists. As well you, Inés, other directors who hold office or have held office include Isabel Coixet, Patricia Ferreira, Icíar Bollaín (who has just issued a strong statement about the representation of women at Cannes). Why has this happened, and what are the advantages and the disadvantages?

Women directors got together to found CIMA because there were few of us and there was no generational renewal: there were few young women filmmakers, writers, directors. We were friends, so it was very easy to work together and reach agreement. Now, six years later, CIMA isn’t just a directors’ organization. There are scriptwriters, producers, teachers, directors of photography etc. But CIMA’s leadership is mostly directors because we’ve been there since the beginning and we’re the most active. As well, directors are popular in the media and that’s an advantage. But it’s also inconvenient because we have to balance our professional work with the responsibilities of running CIMA. It takes a lot of time.

Q. CIMA and EWA are also the first women’s screen organizations I know of to refer explicitly to their rights under human rights legislation. Are these rights, derived from European Community legislation primarily general rights as women workers, or specific rights as women storytellers? Or both? Some details would be wonderful: I’ve argued that the human rights of women storytellers, globally, derive from CEDAW (the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) because all signatory states must encourage the participation of women in public life on equal terms with men (article 7).

CIMA has tried to make people understand that the absence of women directors and decision makers is a social and political problem, not a professional problem or business matter. We maintain that discrimination against women is a defect in democracy. This idea comes from the Ley de Igualdad which is the Spanish reference point.

Q. How strong are your alliances with academic women? Do they add strength to your cause, and if so in what ways?

Our experience with academic women has been excellent. Were grateful to a group of sociologists at l'Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Thanks to those women we’ve learned the statistics about women in the audiovisual world in Spain. The same group have provided us with a theoretical analysis about causes and consequences and that’s become CIMA’s ideological basis (published as La Situación De Las Mujeres Y Los Hombres En El Audiovisual Españo: Estudios Sociológico Y Legislativo)
Some women lawyers helped us make submissions about amending the law on cinema. We’ve also had support from American theoreticians like Barbara Zecchi. All these women have been very active within CIMA itself as well as offering ideological support.

Q. What connections do you have with other screen organizations, in Spain, in Europe and outside Europe? Is it important to you to build alliances outside Europe, although obviously Europe is your primary focus, where you share a common human rights legislation?

In Spain we have links with MAV and Clásicas Y Modernas, two feminist cultural organisations. We think that the audiovisual world is part of culture, part of the world of creation and the arts. We’d like EWA to become the project that starts collaborations with other women’s film and television organisations all over Europe.

Q. You spend a lot of time at festivals. What role do you see for women's film festivals?

I have a feeling that women’s film festivals play an important role in the promotion of women-made films. I have come to realize that these festivals act also as a place of networking for women film-makers. However, I believe that the final objective is for women to feel no need to have their own space. I don’t think it’s about creating women’s categories in the festivals or to relegate us to a specific festival. The goal is to be able to count on full visibility in all the film festivals, whatever gender we are. It’s necessary to achieve equality within the juries of those festivals. But it's clear that in order to arrive at such an ideal situation we must go through the specific festivals as a way to promote the feminine point of view in cinematography, and as an answer to the way men film-makers often condemn women film-makers to oblivion.

Q. I read somewhere that CIMA has close connections with women filmmakers in South America, where I understand their position is stronger. What can you tell me about South American women filmmakers, and the conditions they work in? How do you work with them, from the other side of the world?

There are some Latin American women in CIMA because we share a language and history. Some of them make films here and have projects in Latin America. These women work hard in CIMA. In 2008 our Rencontre a Madrid for women filmmakers helped us establish very interesting relationships. There are many women filmmakers in Latin America. It seems that the less strong an industry is (from a financial point of view) and the more it depends almost exclusively on the capacity for personal initiative, the more women are found directing, writing and producing. What we mean is that women develop and carry out projects in spite of the lack of support. One of our priorities for the future is to create an EWA for Latin America. The Latin American women have often shown us how creative they are in difficult situations.

Q.  How is EWA going? 

EWA has started a long journey. We have the impression that the audiovisual sector, the cultural community, the political world and the Spanish women’s movement all support us. Now we’ve started to look for partnerships with other European organizations. We want EWA to be the fruit of a union of professional women’s organizations. We’ve taken the initiative, but we don’t want to run EWA alone. We want other countries, other organizations, to join us.

Carla Reyes speaks at the Malaga Film Festival 2012



: cima[at] (A comprehensive current 'dossier' in English is available, along with membership forms)

Inés París La situación de las mujeres españolas en el mundo del cine  (p41 of this official Spanish report)

Inés presents the Compostela Declaration:


Mujeres tras la cámara: Cineastas contra el techo de cristal–Una treintena de gallegas se unen a la primera asociación que lucha por la igualdad en el sector audiovisual

Many thanks to Carla and Inés for their patience as we moved between French and English and finally into a little Spanish for some tricky bits, kindly translated by Desiree Gezentsvey, whose award-winning play Nuclear Family is coming to Circa Theatre in Wellington very soon. (It's a comedic drama set in green New Zealand on the eve of the Chernobyl disaster, following a colourful bunch of Venezuelan and Soviet Jewish immigrants as they are forced to question whether freedom and control over one’s destiny are only illusions.) And a big thank you to Margaret von Schiller for the introduction!

And here's the big group at one of CIMA's international gatherings


  1. Thank you so much for this support and we are all looking forward to make this happening. The time is ripe for co-creation, love Margaret

  2. Thanks a lot Marian for your support, Carla

  3. My pleasure, Margaret & Carla. I hope you can tell that I think Spanish women filmmakers are awesome! xx


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