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SANTIAGO DE CHILE – When Dominga Sotomayor won an unprecedented best director prize at Switzerland’s Locarno Festival for her coming-of-age drama “Too Late to Die Young,” a big cheer resounded throughout the Chilean film industry.

As the first female director to receive Locarno’s Leopard for Best Direction, Sotomayor represents a growing surge of female talent – both creative and executive – behind the camera in Chile.

Constanza Arena, executive director of Chilean audiovisual promotion org CinemaChile, noted: “I remember that eight years ago, as the head of CinemaChile, the only producers I’d meet with were male.” “Nowadays, I’ve seen a greater parity, especially among the younger professionals aged between 20 and 35 years,” she added.

In CinemaChile’s film catalogue, Arena noted that 20 titles were directed by women, of which eight were fiction and 12 documentary, listing other female directors like Marcela Said, Claudia Huaiquimilla, Marialy Rivas and Maite Alberdi “who have carried our country’s name a long way on the circuit, conquering awards and international sales like never before in our history.”

Among editors, Chile boasts of at least two notable talents, both recently profiled in leading weekly magazines: Soledad Salfate, who worked closely with Sebastian Lelio on “A Fantastic Woman” and is editing “Gloria Bell,” his English-language remake of “Gloria”; and Andrea Chignoli, whose credits include “No,” “Young and Wild”  and “Violeta Se Fue a los Cielos.”

“As a programmer, I have had to attend many festivals and participate in various international industry spaces, so I can attest to have read and reviewed a lot more projects in development by female directors than before,” said StoryBoard Media producer and Sanfic industry director, Gabriela Sandoval.

“But our film industry, both auteur and mainstream, has been dominated by men, we need to start seeing more works directed by women,” Sandoval added.

This lack of parity is not only in cinema but across all industries.

Even though, during the last 25 years, Chile has witnessed a “sustained increase in the labor participation of adult women (25-59 years) from 40% in 1990 to 66% in 2014, this rate is equivalent to one of the lowest participations within the OECD countries, placing Chile even below the average of the Latin American countries,” said Leonardo Ordonez, general manager of Santiago Creativo, a foundation for the development of Chile’s economic and creative industries.

For Agosto Cine co-founder-producer Alba Gaviraghi, she’s had to contend with the double whammy of being female and young, if not the youngest femme producer in Chile at 26. She’s been a producer since the age of 22 and counts among her multiple credits “The Summer of the Electric Lion,” winner of the First Jury Prize at the Cannes Festival’s 21st Cinéfondation Selection, a showcase for film school shorts. “Chile’s a chauvinistic society,” she said, noting the times her work was minimized for being young and female. Agosto Cine is now developing “…Electric Lion” director Diego Cespedes’ debut feature “La Misteriosa Mirada del Flamenco,” Nicolas Guzman’s “Lo Innegable” and docu “Tecnofobia,” among others.

“Clearly, we live in a patriarchal society that has perpetuated over time the normalization of machismo and misogyny, therefore, the audiovisual industry is no exception,” Sandoval concurred. “So regardless of the abundance of female talent not only at the executive level but also artistic and technical, it is difficult to develop in this medium,” she added.

To this end, Santiago Creativo has spearheaded an initiative towards the promotion of companies and entrepreneurship in women, which includes training, counseling and orientation of markets, said Ordoñez.

But parity is just one challenge in Chile. “Our cinema is going through a moment in which international success, after 10 years of sustained growth, must be translated into internal policies that accompany and strengthen our growth,” said Arena.

“We need quotas, specific taxes to increase our audiovisual fund, more screens for off-Hollywood fare and to grow our local audience for Chilean cinema,” she added. “These remain our greatest challenges.”

Pictured from left to right: Alba Gaviraghi, Dominga Sotomayor, Gabriela Sandoval.