The Film Industry Says They Need Female Directors But You Need to Tick the Right Box

Amancay Tapia
Photo of Filmmaker Amancay Tapia by Angelica Mastrogiuseppe

Making your first feature film takes a lot of work, endless energy and determination. Particularly when you have a budget of $7.000 and you are not only directing and doing the set design and make-up but also cooking for your crew . That was me in 2008 when shooting Campo de Batalla in La Paz, Bolivia. I was so exhausted, it took so much effort and the rewards were so little that I haven't made another feature film ever since.

It was the end of 2008 when I left for La Paz, Bolivia, to shoot Campo De Batalla (Battlefield). I may have had very little money for production, but I had a naïve self-belief and I was on a mission: I was going to make this film, no matter what.

Campo De Batalla tells the story of five women trapped in a beauty salon during a social revolt on the streets of La Paz. As the hours go by, it is the beauty salon itself that turns into a battlefield of petty fights and family issues between the hairdresser and her family.

Bolivia is a country where people take to the streets when things go wrong, so I knew it wouldn't be difficult to capture some footage of street protests for Campo De Batalla. In October 2008, I was one of thousands on the streets of La Paz, welcoming people from all over Bolivia who had walked to the capital to support a referendum for the new constitution. They were mainly Aymaras, Quechuas and Guaranís. It was obvious that Evo Morales, at the time , the first indigenous president of the country, had the support of his people and overwhelming backing from the indigenous population. I filmed some of these historic scenes, and they made a brief appearance in the film.

Campo de Batalla features five very different women battling against one another. Dolores, the hairdresser, finds it hard to establish a maternal bond with her teenage daughter, who feels closer to her grandmother than to her mother. There is also a bride-to-be, who dreams of living in Miami, and a Spanish tourist on a journey of self-discovery. Many Bolivian women worked as domestic staff in Spain during the early years of the 21st century, at the cost of them leaving their children behind. Many of these children were unable to bond with their mothers once they returned. Immigration has benefits, but also drawbacks, and this was a major one for many of these women.

The film is now available to watch for free on YouTube, and a link to Campo De Batalla is below. It was a very long journey, with zero financial profit.

Campo De Batalla premiered in January 2010 to a packed audience at the Cinemateca Boliviana in La Paz. It also opened in Santiago de Compostela, Spain and at La Cinemateca de Bogotá in Colombia. I couldn't afford the submission fee for many festivals, so the film only appeared at the few that were free and that would select it for their competition section.

One of my highlights on the festival circuit was at the Triestre Latin-American film festival in 2010 where I met León Gieco -- an Argentinian musician and composer who created a song that has become an anthem in the Spanish-speaking world, "Sólo Le Pido a Dios". We sing this song in a scene from the film and León, who was on the festival jury, was delighted. He is a legend, a wonderful musician, an even better person, and I feel fortunate to have met him.

I keep hearing how the film industry need more women directors, but I'm a woman director and doors have closed for me. I still think there is a lot of nepotism in the film industry, who you know, how well you mingle with others and then there is the bureacracy. I'm thankful for the Latino film festivals that welcomed my film, but other film festivals were not interested at all in the film. I still have other films lurking inside me but for now i need to work to give my daughter a good life so for some of us,the keep going until you make it, it is just not an option when we have other serious responsibilites.

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Filmmaker and Journalist. Amancay journalism informs, educates and entertains.


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