Women’s History Month could not be more significant for Chile’s fledgling Academy of Cinematographic Arts, which is proud to have selected Maite Alberdi’s acclaimed documentary “The Mole Agent” to fly the Chilean flag at the Oscars.

“Our first year of operation has been auspicious,” said Academy founder-president Giancarlo Nasi who pointed out that this was only the second time in Chile’s film history that it has sent a woman-directed film to represent the country, following Alicia Scherson’s “Play” in 2005.

“The Mole Agent” was also submitted to Spain’s prominent Goya awards, where it vies for the best Ibero-American film prize, and to Mexico’s Ariel awards.

Shortlisted for both the best international feature and documentary Oscar categories, the retirement center-set spy docu landed among the five nominees in the documentary category. “This is the first time that Chile has been nominated in this category and the only Latin American film in competition for an Oscar this year,” noted Nasi.

Alberdi has long been established at home. Her 2014 film, about a group of elderly lady-friends meeting every month, “La Once,” lured 25,000 admissions in Chile, unprecedented for a documentary. With the pandemic forcing cinemas to close, “The Mole Agent” has been streaming online where it was among the top ten shows on Netflix during its first four weeks.

The more than 250 members of the Academy, hailing from different trades in Chile’s audiovisual industry, participated for the first time in an election process from which five women have been elected to the board of directors.

Joining Nasi as vice president is CinemaChile executive director Constanza Arena; producer Rebeca Gutiérrez as executive secretary; costume designer and makeup artist Michelle Cervera as treasurer; and as board directors, documentary producer-director Lorena Giachino and TV producer María Elena Wood. In addition, the board appointed Josefina Undurraga as executive director, who began her work at the institution as a co-ordinator.

Asked how he felt about being the only male on the board, Nasi responded: “I’ve never felt better!” “Our board is not only mostly female but is also very diverse, representing the fields of documentaries, film and TV,” he noted.

The Academy played an active role in the marketing and publicity campaigns for “The Mole Agent” managing to raise and diversify its financing sources through alliances with public and private institutions such as Prochile, the export promotion agency of the Ministry of Foreign Relations, and fund management company Focus. Additional backing came from the Bank of Chile and the Catholic University of Chile.

“I founded the Academy when I saw how absurd it was that we didn’t have one despite having won Oscars in various categories,” Nasi attested. Aside from the 2017 Best Int’l Feature win for “A Fantastic Woman,” Chileans have scored in animation (“Bear Story,” 2015), cinematography (Claudio Miranda, “Life of Pi”) as well as nabbed multiple nominations.

Powered by its female-dominated board, the Academy has boarded FIACINE Women 2021, a program that seeks to highlight the values and work of women filmmakers from the 11 Ibero-American countries that make up the Ibero-American federation of film academies. The program is made up of two initiatives aimed at fostering gender equality and boosting the presence of women in the region’s audiovisual industry:

FIACINE Short Films, a selection of shorts directed by eleven women filmmakers from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Spain, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay, Portugal and Venezuela.

FIACINE Study: An analysis of the participation of women filmmakers in the 11 film academies in the region, and of their participation among the pics that were released in these countries last year. Data collected will be used for a new directory of women in the Ibero-American film industry.