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Four Latin American women producers, each of them leading voices in their respective countries, found kinship and solidarity at the Sanfic Industry panel Women Film Producers: Expanding Gazes.

They also realized that there were still many issues to resolve, especially gender parity in the entertainment sector.

Hosted by Chile’s premier audiovisual industry event on March 25, the panel included Sanfic Industry Head and Storyboard Media producer Gabriela Sandoval of Chile who also served as moderator; Brazilian producer Vania Catani of Bananeira Filmes; Peru’s Joanna Lombardi, Head of Fiction for Movistar Latin America; and Argentine producer Vanessa Ragone, whose credits include 2010 International Feature Oscar winner “The Secret in their Eyes.”

Some conclusions they drew from their 90-minute discussion:

Women need to take more leadership roles in the industry

Until there are more women with creative decision-making power, changes would be slow. “When a project is presented to me, I want to ensure that the female roles are fleshed out, made more powerful,” said Lombardi who noted that she has been pitched projects with female leads, but they are often reduced to stereotypes. “I’ve been producing films for the past 20 years, and I’ve made it my mission to have some gender parity in my filmography,” said Catani, who added that when she started out, there were few women producers and now some 50% of the producers in Brazil are women.

But old habits die hard

Gender parity is also important to keep in mind when hiring crew, Lombardi asserted, but sometimes it’s easier to go with the people you know. “You need to take that leap and find female crew members,” she said, adding that she’s had continued success with her female hires. Ragone, who is also the first woman president of CAIC (the Argentine Chamber of the Cinematographic Industry), observed that Argentina still had few women cinematographers, sound directors and other key crew positions. She also noted that Argentina’s film schools had more female students than males but when it came to entering the workforce, men had first crack at the jobs. Stereotypes also persist among the crew with women handling makeup and hair and men the more physically-demanding jobs. “Why can men tell stories about women and not the other way around?” asked Lombardi.

Governments need to help, not hinder

The Brazilian government’s war on culture, which has slowed dramatically the adjudication of new incentives since 2019, has had many filmmakers turn to the streaming giants to find work, according to Catani. “Unfortunately, the fortunes of Latin America’s film industries have always ebbed and flowed with changes in government,” noted Sandoval. Lombardi asserted that for real change to come into effect, laws or quotas on gender parity need to be passed.

Festivals can effect change

Sandoval, who is also the co-founder of the Sanfic Film Festival, observed that this year’s Santiago Lab had more projects by women producers and directors. “We have an enormous responsibility to help raise the visibility of women, and these incubators in film festivals and markets are key to finding and nurturing emerging talent,” she pointed out. “Cinema is one of the tools that aside from entertaining, makes one reflect; it humanizes us and can lead to change,” she added.