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86-Year-Old Short Found in Lockdown Could Be Spain’s First Woman-Directed Talkie

"Mallorca" is an eight-minute documentary that was previously thought to have been directed by a man.

"Mallorca"

“Mallorca”

Filmoteca Española

Spain’s national film archive Filmoteca Española has discovered in lockdown what could be the country’s first talking movie directed by a woman filmmaker (via The Guardian). The film is an eight-minute documentary titled “Mallorca.” The black-and-white short film is composed of various shots from across the Balearic Islands locale and is inspired by the music of composer Isaac Albeñiz. “Mallorca” has been sitting in Filmoteca Española’s library since 1982 wrongly labeled as being directed by a man. Film archivists took another look at the documentary while in lockdown and discovered the filmmaker is a woman named María Forteza.

“We were looking at what we had on hard disk and when we sat down to watch the film we went, ‘Hang on! This doesn’t fit together properly,’” said national archive head Josetxo Cerdán. “The most surprising thing was seeing that a woman’s name came up as director.”

To crack the mystery of María Forteza’s identity, Filmoteca Española received help from Industrias del Cine film journalist Laura Jurado. Per The Guardian: “Jurado discovered Forteza was a singer and variety artist – and the wife of [camera operator] Ramón Úbeda. She also tracked down some of the couple’s surviving relatives.” The connection made sense as Úbeda is listed as the producer of “Mallorca.”

After studying “Mallorca” more closely, the archivists at Filmoteca Española dated the movie as being made somewhere between 1932 and 1934. The archivists decided upon the date range based on the taxi model that appears in the documentary and the fact that a sound system Úbeda patented in 1935 is not listed in the credits. Should the date range be confirmed, “Mallorca” would become Spain’s first talking movie on record directed by a woman. That title currently belongs to “The Mountain Cat,” a 1935 movie directed by Rosario Pi.

According to Cerdán, “Mallorca” is a better film than many of its “aesthetic documentary” contemporaries. The archivist said, “They tend to be painfully dull: you get a monument, then another monument, then a mountain. But this isn’t like that. You have the explanatory prologue and the little narrative of the boat arriving on the island and then the tour. The camera is also very well positioned in every shot.”

“Mallorca” is now streaming on Vimeo through May 8 courtesy of Filmoteca Española. Watch the short documentary in its entirety in the video below.

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