The Spanish Film Institute (ICAA) has honored filmmaker, screenwriter and theater director Josefina Molina with this year’s National Cinematography Prize.

A pioneering female director who began her career in the largely male-dominated world of Spanish cinema in the 1960s, Molina has directed such works as 1973’s “Vera, un cuento cruel” (“Vera, a Cruel Tale”), the 1978 TV series “El Camino” (“The Road”) and the 1989 feature “Esquilache.”

The award – given to a figure in any part of Spain’s film industry, not just cinematographers – marks the first time that the prize has been presented to a female director in its near 40-year history.

In selecting Molina as this year’s recipient, the ICAA jury said it was correcting a historical debt in honoring the filmmaker, who it described as a “model for several generations of present and future filmmakers.”

In 1969, Molina became the first woman to earn a degree in directing and producing from the state-backed Official Cinema School in Madrid.

“Her free and unprejudiced gaze has been essential in understanding the situation of women in the years of the transition and consolidation of democracy,” the jury said, stressing that Molina’s work has demonstrated “a personal commitment” to “a greater representation of women in the film industry.”

The jury added that Molina had “bravely approached avant-garde, auto-fiction and classicism in her work.”

Last year the ICAA Spanish Film and Audiovisual Arts Institute, part of Spain’s Ministry of Culture and Sports, presented the award for the first time to a female producer, honoring Esther García, longtime producer at Pedro and Agustín Almodóvar’s El Deseo production house . Previous recipients of the prize have included Angela Molina, Antonio Banderas, Fernando Trueba and Juan Antonio Bayona.

The National Cinematography Prize is endowed with €30,000 ($32,970).

Born in Córdoba in 1936, Molina began her professional career in 1964 at Spanish pubcaster TVE, where she directed and wrote a wide range of programs, among them the 1984 TV series “Teresa de Jesús,” starring Concha Velasco, and the 1998 miniseries “Entre naranjos” (“Among Orange Trees”).

Her films have included such productions as 1981’s “Función de noche” (“Evening Performance”), 1989’s “Esquilache,” 1991’s Goya-winning “Lo más natural” (“The Most Natural Thing”) and 1993’s “La Lola se va a los puertos.”

In 2006 Molina joined filmmakers Isabel Coixet and Icíar Bollaín in establishing the Association of Women Filmmakers and Audiovisual Media (CIMA), of which she became honorary president.

The widely respected filmmaker received the Spanish Television Academy’s lifetime achievement award in 2003, Spain’s Gold Medal for Merit in the Fine Arts in 2006 and an Honorary Goya in 2012.