Across the globe, women occupy a peripheral position in filmmaking (see for instance White 2015). Even though cinema was introduced in Portugal as early as 1896, the first feature- length fiction film directed by a Portuguese woman was only released in 1946. This was Três Dias sem Deus, by Bárbara Virgínia. The second film directed by a woman in Portugal was an ethnographic documentary co-directed with a man: Trás-os-Montes, by António Reis and Margarida Cordeiro (1976). Between 1946 and 2009, only 40 fiction films were directed by women in Portugal: that is less than one film per year (see Pereira 2016). Furthermore, and in contrast to the situation with feature films over the last few decades, women directors have been particularly active in the sphere of documentary filmmaking, where production costs, distribution issues and creative freedom are generally easier to address in a marginal, peripheral cinematography, characteristic of a “cinema of small nations” (Hjort and Petrie 2007; Liz 2018). By bringing to the fore films and filmmakers that are generally ignored by the nation’s cultural history, this project traces the contemporary history of women directors in Portugal and places it within international debates shaping film and cultural studies.
In recent years, Portuguese cinema has become increasingly visible beyond national borders. Filmmakers including Pedro Costa, Miguel Gomes and João Pedro Rodrigues have become household names for film festival, art-house theatres and cinephile audiences. Similarly, Margarida Cardoso, Teresa Villaverde and Leonor Teles — the latter the youngest director ever to win a Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, for her short film Batrachian’s Ballad (2016) — have not only screened their films abroad, but also won major international recognition. Yet, when discussing the growing internationalization of Portuguese cinema, it is their male counterparts that are most cited as examples. In light of this, the current project will ask two principal questions: what place have Portuguese women filmmakers come to occupy in contemporary Portuguese culture? How is their work framed in relation to the internationalization of Portuguese culture and film?
In order to address these questions, the project’s activities, namely, a workshop, book project and film series will explore how Portuguese women have developed their different film-making practices, political priorities and aesthetic influences, and how they respond to the constraints of the film industry, the opportunities afforded by transnationalism and international networks, their experiences of distribution, and the critical reception and framing of their work both in Portugal and abroad. Directors covered may include but will not be restricted to: Margarida Cordeiro, Margarida Gil, Teresa Villaverde, Solveig Nordlund, Catarina Ruivo, Catarina Mourão, Cláudia Tomáz, Maria de Medeiros, Raquel Freire, Margarida Cardoso, Monique Rutler, Susana de Sousa Dias, Diana Andringa, Noémia Delgado, Leonor Teles, Teresa Prata, Rita Azevedo Gomes, Salomé Lamas, Marta Mateus and Cláudia Varejão.
This project contributes to research being undertaken at ICS-ULisboa on areas such as national identity and culture, individual affirmation and gender studies, and the societal importance of the moving image. It also addresses important debates arising at an international level on the tension between the national and the global, the redefinition of gender imbalances and the multiple notions of (post)feminism, and the relationship between culture, politics and society in 20th and 21st century Portugal. It will expand on the groundbreaking achievements of Ana Catarina Pereira’s 2016 PhD (see also Resources), the first doctoral thesis dedicated solely to Portuguese women directors, by engaging in detail with a much larger number of female-directed films, and by bringing together a substantial international team of film scholars working on gender, with the ultimate goal of building critical mass in the field. To that end, the project will both expand the available knowledge-base relating to films by Portuguese women, and also diversify the analytical discourses which currently structure the discussion.