It would be nice to think that their paths might have crossed
Historiak, 3 

Like a crumpled heap of clothes on the ground, rather than a washing line above her head with everything neatly pegged in place; that was how British filmmaker and artist Lis Rhodes envisaged a possible, alternative, feminist history of film. This same approach runs through the following conversation between María Palacios Cruz and Pablo La Parra Pérez, principal investigators on two of the research projects at the Elías Querejeta Zine Eskola (EQZE). Still immersed in the unsorted, unclassified and unpublicised heap comprised, respectively, of the San Sebastian International Film Festival archives and the Cinenova catalogue, this year the first graduates from EQZE had the opportunity to participate in two projects whose paths converged at a very specific moment in the late 1970s.

Led by Pablo La Parra Pérez, the aim of Zinemaldia 70. All Possible Histories is to create a living archive of the San Sebastian International Film Festival. The first phase of the project will conclude in 2022 – the Festival’s 70th anniversary. During this first year, the project has focussed on the period of the Spanish transition to democracy and on the changes that were consequently introduced in the Festival’s structure and programming. María Palacios Cruz is, together with Charlotte Procter and Clara Sánchez-Dehesa, responsible for Their Past is Always Present, a project centred on Cinenova’s collection. Cinenova is a feminist film distributor, founded in 1991 out of the merger of Circles and Cinema of Women, two distributors that had been active in the 1970s and 1980s. A key figure behind the foundation of Circles was Lis Rhodes, whose essay “Whose History?”—an essential work in feminist thinking on cinema—was published in the catalogue of the 1979 exhibition Film as Film. The previous year, the San Sebastian International Film Festival had run a special season of films directed by women, accompanied by panel discussions. The event succinctly illustrates the transformation of the Festival following the death of Franco and the end of the dictatorship in Spain. Aside from their contemporaneity and the impact they had on society and film culture at the time, might the women who organised the San Sebastian season have met with Lis Rhodes and the Circles group? How were they organised? What happened to the work carried out by both groups to bring greater visibility to women’s place in film history? And what of their feminist struggle outside the field of cinema?

Conversation moderated by Sara Hernández and Antonio Miguel Arenas (Autumn 2020)[1]

Poster for the "Cinema Made by Women" series

PABLO LA PARRA PÉREZ: In order to understand what happened at the 26th edition of the San Sebastian International Film Festival in 1978, we have to go back a bit further and look at the way the event had been transformed since Franco’s death. Although there had been changes throughout its history, it was still labouring under a very outmoded structure that was very closely associated with the dictatorial regime. The best illustration was Miguel de Echarri, who was the director of the Festival from 1967 to 1977 and had close ties to the dictatorship’s apparatus and the film industry. As conceived by Echarri, the Festival was clearly run in keeping with the interests of the authorities. It strove to strike a paradoxical balance, on the one hand projecting an international image of liberalization and modernity, whilst on the other maintaining the repressive conditions imposed by the regime. Moreover, it unmistakably was an old-fashioned festival. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, festivals such as Cannes and Berlin were radically transformed, and new, more politically and aesthetically engaged forms of programming criteria were emerged. The whole notion of a festival as an “Institutional Olympics of Film” (with productions being selected primarily on commercial and diplomatic grounds) was problematised. However, because of the specific context, and the fact that the Franco regime was culturally out of step, San Sebastian was much slower in responding to those concerns. 

Following Franco’s death, the 1976 San Sebastian International Film Festival demonstrated that its traditional formula had run its course. It opened amidst protests over the repressive situation in the Basque Country and against the backdrop of political and democratic conflict, a few days after the killing of Jesús María Zabala by the police in a demonstration in Hondarribia. Questions began to be asked about the Festival from many different sides. In 1977, changes in the upper echelons of the Festival led to the appointment of a steering committee which, after much debate, tried to include different voices from civil society. This much more plural committee sought to respond—albeit with limitations—to the calls for greater freedom and democracy being played out on the streets. 

That whole long history tied in with the activities being organised in San Sebastian in the closing years of the Franco regime by a group of women with close links to the anti-Franco left. Although they were involved in all sorts of anti-Franco causes, such as the call for an amnesty and political rights, they also began to construct a genuinely feminist agenda of their own. In San Sebastian, that took the form of the Women’s Assembly, which was set up around 1976. We’ve interviewed some of the women who would play a crucial role in organising the women’s film season later in 1978, such as Begoña Gorospe, Rosa Turrillas and Ana Ureta, and it is clear that by 1977 they were involved in one of the landmark initiatives introduced by the new (so called) “democratic” Festival: the Neighbourhoods and Towns [Barrios y pueblos] programme. The idea was to try to decentralise the Festival, screening films in working-class neighbourhoods and towns throughout the province of Gipuzkoa and elsewhere in the Basque Country. This initiative was successful and forged new ties, not only between the Festival and the social movements (in this case, the grassroots Neighbourhood Associations), but also between the programmers and new audiences, with the staging of talks and meetings with filmmakers.

These women saw that the new orientation of the Festival steering committee, which was more sensitive to democratic aspirations, opened up a new window of opportunity. Their diagnosis was that throughout the Festival’s history and the standard texts on film history, women had been largely overlooked. Many of them had a background in film, having been involved in film clubs. It is also worth remembering that the political opposition to Franco had close ties with the world of cinema: film clubs were essential venues for political free speech and debate. These women were very insightful in intuiting that a film season had the potential to be a political stage for their feminist agenda. They were also well aware that in the wider context of democratic transformation, the Festival could hardly turn them down. They sent their proposal to the 1978 Festival steering committee, which was made up of Néstor Basterretxea, Rafael Modrego and Mariano Larrandia, whom they saw as potential allies. Eventually, they got the go-ahead and that’s when the whole adventure of setting up the season began.

One of the things our research team has found most fascinating is the way this story can be seen beyond the merely local context. We have to see it in the context of developments at an international level—not merely as an analytical and political exercise, but because that is what these women themselves were doing. They knew they didn’t have the tools or resources they needed to organise this season, so the very first thing they did was to go to Paris. Through their connections with people like Herta Álvarez and Esther Ferrer, they came into contact with everything that was going on in Paris and they began to build a network with other women who were actively involved in film culture. And this is where you have an initial resonance, a sort of poetic echo, because the women who went on to found Circles also came to Paris in 1978. And they moved in the same milieux. It would be nice to think that their paths might have crossed.

MARÍA PALACIOS CRUZ: Circles was one of two feminist film distributors set up in the UK in 1979. The other one was Cinema of Women (COW). In the 1990s, when the British Film Intitute

(BFI) decided there was only enough funding for one feminist distributor, Circles and COW merged to form Cinenova. Circles began to take shape in 1978, as a result of the work of a group

of women who had coalesced around Lis Rhodes in response to the Film as Film exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in London. 

In 1977, Birgit Hein and Wulf Herzogenrath had curated Film als Film in Cologne, Germany. It was the first large retrospective exhibition of formal and structural film and it served to contextualise the work of the 1960s and 1970s avant-garde, looking back to their counterparts from the 1920s and 1930s. The argument was that you could trace a continuous line in formal (“artistic”) experimentation with film all the way through from 1910 to 1975. The premise was the dialogue that existed between visual artists and film, and it placed those cinematic avant-gardes within the wider context of art history. There was a lot of toing-and-froing between Birgit and Wilhelm Hein in Germany and the London Film-Makers’ Co-operative, and a committee was set up in London to organise an “English” version of the exhibition. Initially, Lis Rhodes was the only woman invited to join the committee. She asked for the invitation to be extended to Annabel Nicolson and the two teamed up with other women from the Co-op (such as Felicity Sparrow, Jane Clarke, Jeanette Iljon, Mary Pat Leece, Pat Murphy and Susan Stein) to see how they could widen the Film as Film project to include more work by women filmmakers. That was how they encountered the films of Alice Guy, Germaine Dulac and the reason why Lis Rhodes and Felicity Sparrow went to Paris in 1978, where they might have run into the women from San Sebastian. They gradually began to realise that what they wanted to do was not to “integrate” Germaine Dulac, Alice Guy, Maya Deren and other women filmmakers into the Film as Film hypothesis; instead, it was more important for their work to be understood and appreciated on their own merits and on their own terms. Lis and Annabel resigned from the committee (Peter Gidal also quit in solidarity) and the group decided to “withdraw” their work (and their research) from the exhibition. Instead, they issued an explanatory statement, which was published in the catalogue along with a series of translated texts by and about Guy, Dulac and Deren. This section of the catalogue was titled “Woman and the Formal Film” and also included Lis Rhodes’s most famous text, “Whose History?”

This counterprogramming or “non-programming” can also be viewed as a carry-over from the conversations the women from the Co-op had been having for some time. They used to meet informally at the Co-op offices to talk, but also to read together—for example, Gertrude Stein—and share texts, ideas and experiences. At the time, Lis Rhodes was working at Compendium Books in Camden, which was very close to the Coop. The bookshop closed in 2000, but for many years it was an important site for counterculture in London. Compendium had a feminist section, and I imagine there would have been a flow of ideas and texts between the bookshop and the Co-op, with Rhodes acting like a messenger. I presume they also read and discussed some of the works of feminist theory being published at the time, such as Laura Mulvey’s writings. 

There’s an essay by Peter Wollen, Laura Mulvey’s companion and collaborator, called “The Two Avant-Gardes” (1975), in which he describes the separation between the formal avant-garde (the experimental cinema of the Co-op and the American underground, for example) and the political avant-garde (Harun Farocki, Jean-Luc Godard, etc.). This separation was total by the late 1970s. In the 1960s, however, there were moments—for example at the EXPRMNTL festival in Knokke—when such diverse figures as Agnès Varda, Shirley Clarke and Gregory Markopoulos could dialogue. In the 1970s, though, they did no longer inhabit the same physical and discursive spaces. It is strange to think that when Laura Mulvey went to the Co-op, it wasn’t to talk to Felicity Sparrow, Lis Rhodes and the other women, but to the men (Peter Gidal, Malcolm Le Grice), who were the ones interested in debating with and against “film theory.” 

Something that Lis Rhodes rejects in “Whose History?” is the idea that history can be reduced to a clear and simple line. She uses the metaphor of a clothesline, where everything is in order, shirt next to shirt, but says she prefers a crumpled heap of clothes-history at her feet.

PLP: You said something that strikes me as being very important in our attempt to make a parallel reconstruction of these two stories that converged in Paris in 1978. There weren’t that many feminist spaces for film programming at the time: the first international feminist film festival had been held in New York in June 1972, a few months after the landmark Women’s Event organised by Laura Mulvey, Claire Johnston and Lynda Myles took place at the Edinburgh Film Festival. Then, in 1974, the Musidora association organised the first big event for films made by women in Paris. Indeed, the Alice Guy book translated by the English delegation from the Co-op had a foreword by the Musidora association! And it was that same association—which was later involved in founding the Créteil International Women’s Film Festival in 1979—which to a large extent counselled the women from San Sebastian. In other words, this group suddenly emerged as an axis or a hinge: they acted as facilitators, enabling the San Sebastian and UK groups to develop their own initiatives.

Taking another step back in history, you mentioned a very important feature: the idea of all meeting up to read together. It happened with the Co-op in England and also with the anti-Franco and feminist assemblies and movements here. In “Whose History?”, Lis Rhodes’s text for Film as Film, there is a passage where she problematises the prevailing philosophy of history, but her starting point is a seemingly anecdotal, everyday anecdote. She describes how she and her sister were looking through a drawer full of old memories and documents, and how such a fragmentary and fragile subjective history, imbued with moments of emotion, based on the act of sharing a series of memories or interpretations with another person, made her think about her own history. I think such an small but powerful anecdote illustrates perfectly what these women were doing: they were, together, arming themselves with arguments and knowledge, telling their own histories. 

You told us, for example, that what they finally included in the Film as Film catalogue was a series of translations, based on their readings. That’s a really beautiful idea.

MPC: “Whose History?” constantly moves between something very personal and subjective in the first-person singular, to a political manifesto in the first-person plural. It is both poetry and institutional criticism… because what they are really criticising is academic thinking. We read this text at the Elías Querejeta Zine Eskola and we tried to apply it to the field of curating—fighting against the idea of the curator imposing their own thesis onto an artist’s work. The more they read and worked on the subject of the women who had been forgotten by history, the more they came to a similar conclusion. Because Alice Guy had been written out of film history; it’s really only now that she is beginning to be remembered.

PLP: In 1978, Festival magazine critised the fact that George Sadoul’s Histoire générale du cinéma placed her in the shadow of Gaumont or the Lumière brothers. That was their conclusion

then and it stills holds true today.

MPC: Alice Guy is not like some other directors from the silent era, who were forgotten either because their films were lost or because they died before people began to understand the importance of preserving film heritage. Alice Guy died in 1968, so she was still alive when Sadoul published his history of cinema. She spent the 1960s trying to convince Langlois that she was the one who had made all those films, but nobody believed her. Sadoul and others simply looked through the film credits and searched for the first male name. That’s why they ended up attributing nearly all her films to her assistant. I believe the only film Sadoul attributed to her was one she didn’t actually make.

I think it’s very sad that no one wanted to publish her autobiography while she was still alive; it was released by the Musidora association in 1974. Meliès and the Lumière brothers were long dead, but you have someone who was actually there at the birth of cinema, and nobody pays any attention to her. Alice Guy was present at the very first cinématographe screening, which took place nine months before the first public screening, when the Lumières presented their invention to the industry. She was Gaumont’s secretary and attended the screening with him. I imagine how frustrating and bittersweet it must have been for the San Sebastian women or Lis Rhodes and Felicity Sparrow, when they were in Paris in 1978 trying to reconstruct the puzzle of her life with very little to go on, to think that just ten years before, they could have actually met Alice Guy in person. And of course it’s appalling the way Alice Guy was written out of the story, but what really surprised me when I read the women’s “statement” for Film as Filmwas that, by the late 1970s, Maya Deren’s work had also been forgotten. She who had been such a pioneering figure for the North American avant-garde…

The text also discusses that “cleansing” of history, the way we only retain that part of someone’s work that suits us, the part that fits our hypothesis, excluding or ignoring everything else (for example Maya Deren’s time in Haiti studying Voodoo culture). That was why the women decided to include translations of Deren’s writings, as well as pieces by Alice Guy and Germaine Dulac. In the act of translating, there is a desire to respect the integrity of the work, the words of the filmmaker and how she situates her own work. They argued that Deren, for example, should not be simply reduced to the aspects of her practice that interested or suited the organisers of Film as Film or the historians of avant-garde cinema; Deren is the sum of all her parts. And the same is true of Germaine Dulac. You can’t accept Dulac’s more abstract cinema but reject the feminist Dulac. Even when women did form part of the Film as Filmhistory (or the history of avant-garde cinema more widely), they were only included in so far as their work conformed to a certain narrative. The more Rhodes, Sparrow and the others read, the angrier they got, until eventually they concluded that they did not want to comply to that narrative. 

To that extent, their gesture was exactly the opposite of that of the San Sebastian women; what they did was to “leave”. They did not leave altogether, however; instead, they wanted to make their absence visible. That’s why they wrote the collective statement (and all signed it, unlike the San Sebastian women, who did not sign theirs) and they decided not to withdraw it from the exhibition catalogue. In strategic terms, I think this was a very wise move; the exhibition is no longer there, but what lives on, forever, is the book. Ultimately, those pages of the book have had a much greater long-term influence than they would have had within the space of the exhibition.

PLP: The San Sebastian women also left their mark on the Festival’s magazine. As they tell it, the “Lastozko Venus” (“Straw Venus”) section consisted of their own translations of one of the books they brought back from their time in Paris, Popcorn Venus by Marjorie Rosen, which had been translated into French as Vénus à la chaîne and published by Des Femmes. You spoke earlier about a bookshop which formed an essential node in the subjective and political geography of the London women. In Paris, the Librairie des femmes was the nerve centre of feminist literature. That was where they got hold of the book. They translated it together collectively, up to the point that they became unsure how faithful their translation was and decided not to reveal the source, or to sign the piece. Rosen’s book is an educational piece, written for a general readership, but at the same time it was quite groundbreaking in its criticism of the way women had been represented in classic Hollywood cinema.

I think this feeds into something you also mentioned about Lis Rhodes’ text, which is common to all those first feminist movements in cinema: institutional critique. In other words, the “Lastozko Venus” section takes aim at that great tradition of Hollywood movies. Suddenly the Festival’s own official magazine was criticising the whole mechanism of representation of the very type of cinema it had previously placed on a pedestal. It was like the very idea that San Sebastian—a A-class film festival and the most important in Spain—should be hosting and giving official recognition to a season like this. As the women themselves told us, they were like a foreign body within the Festival. There was this desire to influence the machinery from within. They didn’t create a parallel counter-festival; instead they decided (and I think it was a spectacularly bold decision) to go to the heart of the institution itself and act from within. That is why I also think it is so important to view it in those terms of institutional critique. Despite having limited resources, I think it was very interesting.

In the accounts of all the women we interviewed, one of the things that most caught my attention was related to something else that was also starting to happen at the Festival: the discussions. Specifically, because it preserved the idea that the film theatre was a safe space, and there was an active effort to prevent the discussion from being monopolised by men. Actions like the 1978 programme were very important in creating a space where women could speak. Screenings and discussions were open to everyone, but the session chairs actively worked to prevent men from hogging the microphone.

MPC: When Circles was founded in 1979 in Felicity Sparrow’s flat, they didn’t have a space of their own. Later, they would have their offices at Four Corners where they organised screenings, including women-only sessions. In the documentary on Circles, Seeing for Ourselves – Women Working in Film (Margaret Williams, 1984), we can see the discussion following the screening of The Smiling Madame Beudet by Germaine Dulac. Many of them had seen the film several times before, but it still sparked new ideas, emotions and debate. And out of the blue, they start talking about Greenham Common, which was a pacifist camp set up in the 1980s by women to protest against the deployment of nuclear weapons (it finally disbanded at the end of the century).

The 1980s was a very violent decade in the United Kingdom, with the miners’ strike, police brutality, racial tension and so on. But when the women set up their peace camp outside the military base at Greenham, they did so as “mothers” and that made it much more difficult for the media, the police and the authorities to stir up the same level of antagonism against them as they had against the miners’ strike. It was a peaceful protest; the women were mothers with children who organised assemblies and improvised crèches. Many of the Circles women took part in Greenham Common (Annabel Nicolson made Fire Film at the camp and one of the episodes from Hang On a Minute by Lis Rhodes and Joanna Davis is also about the protest.)

What’s nice about the post-screening, film-club type discussion, is that there they are talking about Germaine Dulac’s film, and then suddenly, in an entirely natural way, they start discussing their experiences at Greenham Common. It’s a bit like Lis Rhodes’s essay when she talks about looking at photos with her sister, and suddenly she goes from her personal history to History with a capital H. And in that conversation on Dulac, they start by talking about what the film made them feel and about the oppression of the central character. They talk about political resistance and strategies of protest through cinematic gestures. There is a very nice coming together of generations and a great deal of respect in terms of letting each other speak and listening to one another.

PLP: The work of the Women’s Assembly of San Sebastian also continued into the 1980s, when it was linked to the pacifist movement—a common trend throughout the whole genealogy of the European feminist movement. When we interviewed Begoña Gorospe and Rosa Turrillas they also jumped around, in that same very natural way you mention, moving from their subjective cinema experiences to their direct involvement in political actions. I remember being totally taken aback in one of the interviews. Begoña was discussing the organisation of the 1978 season and the formation of the Assembly, and turned to what she described as “small video projects” she had made behind the camera in the 1980s. She had attended some courses in video, run in association with the establishment of ETB [Basque Public Television], and she decided to unite her feminist activism with her video-activism. And then, in the middle of the conversation, she suddenly jumped to 1986 and the protests against Spain’s membership of NATO, specifically, the occupation of the Star arms factory in Eibar, and the video piece she had made with some other women. They filmed the trains packed with women leaving to support the occupation, all carrying balls of wool to spin a sort of spider’s web around the factory. When we delved further into this experience, we discovered that many women’s groups operating elsewhere in the Basque Country also look back on those actions as a fundamental turning point in their own feminist organisation.


Film as Film vs. Zinemaldia 78

MPC: It is difficult to draw a comparison between the Film as Film exhibition and the women’s film season at the Festival; here we are dealing with the complete separation of the two avant-gardes. Perhaps it would be more interesting to compare the experience here in 1978 with what was shown at the Edinburgh Film Festival in 1972 (programmed by Laura Mulvey, Lynda Myles and Claire Johnston). We also have to consider the way films used to be programmed at the time, often based on what one read. We can be quite sure they wouldn’t have seen all of the films that they chose for the season. One programs films in order to be able to watch them and in this context, I suppose that if the women hadn’t selected those titles, they wouldn’t have been able to see them.

PLP: There is something there that is quite complex but fascinating, nonetheless. In a dictatorial context like the Franco regime, where people’s access to film culture was limited and films were censored, people read much more about cinema than they actually saw. Indeed, one of the things those women used to do was go across the border, to Bayonne for example, and bring back issues of Cahiers du Cinéma and Des femmes en mouvements which they could use to construct their own imaginary. They had very probably read about Agnès Varda, and then they had this chance to invite her to come in person, with her film. 

It is a very complex issue to research, but I think it’s really fascinating, the way film imaginaries and cultures were formed that were based not on seeing but on reading. That was a crucial feature of the time and it is often overlooked in academic literature, also because it relates to a subjective formation of imaginaries and genealogies that are often looked down on by the prevailing narrative. 

As for the programming criteria, in the 1978 season I think they were trying to cover as much ground as possible with the resources available to them. There are many different layers of programming at stake. On the one hand, they made use of the Festival’s selection apparatus for their own ends. Combing through the documents in the archive, you can see that the selection committee was on the look-out for women directors. So, for example, when they had a high-level meeting with official film bodies from Hungary, they contacted Marta Mészáros, who ended up participating in this programme, because the women from the Assembly were already bringing influence to bear on the selection committee. In this case, the institutional apparatus was responding to the demands of the Assembly, in what strikes me as being an entirely political negotiation.

But, on the other hand, they also turned to other channels of selection. For instance, Ciné-Femmes International, an alternative distribution group founded in Paris by Vivian Ostrovsky and Rosine Grange, who collaborated directly and came to the Festival. In this case it was the exact opposite of an institutional meeting: this was a feminist group which travelled around Europe with the film reels in the back of their van. One of the nicest things about the 1978 season was the way they combined these two modes of operation. I think that’s what made the season so rich too: all the films were directed by women but there were some with a more narrative or conventional approach and others that were more alternative, using more experimental languages. I don’t think there was one strong clear curatorial line. I don’t know what you think, María, looking through the programme. I have the feeling that they were trying to use all the resources available to make a selection that was as rich and diverse as possible.

MPC: They were all very recent films at the time and the strength of the programme lies in presenting them all together. Some of the films would have been on the Festival’s radar anyway, such as Larisa Shepitko’s The Ascent, which had won the Golden Bear in Berlin. If you had shown Shepitko’s film to any of the Festival programmers without telling them who it was by, nobody would have guessed it was by a woman. But screening it in this context, with all these films, it serves to expand the idea of “women’s cinema”. This is something else that Lis Rhodes refers to in her essay. When you go to a library and there’s a section titled “Women”. So it’s perhaps helpful that someone has identified it as a “theme”, but it is also extremely complicated and problematic. I think putting Larisa Shepitko’s film on the programme alongside Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles by Chantal Akerman was an important gesture in that it broke down the prejudices people might have had about feminist or women’s cinema. Actually, perhaps the two films aren’t really that different; both are very minimalist films, with very few characters.

PLP: Speaking of that, there are various things that have been going on in the season of feminist cinema histories at Tabakalera entitled From the Beginning. Histories of Feminist Cinema. It began precisely by discussing that overlooked foundational scene and the fact that Alice Guy was present at what is now considered to be the first screening in cinema history. At one of the sessions, a member of the women’s group that was presenting and curating the films said something which I think resonates with what you just said, María. Someone mentioned that not all of the directors in the season would have seen themselves as feminists. I thought her answer was brilliant; she said that the truly feminist move was to combine all of these films, to programme them together. It does not assume any particular motivation among the filmmakers, who were a very mixed bag, driven by different motivations and aesthetic languages. The feminist gesture is to see them all together. And in this case, it is up to the curators to programme them together.

MPC: So what happened the following year? In 1979?

PLP: From what they’ve told us, they proposed staging the season again, but the Festival said they didn’t have the funds for it. Their idea was to do it every year like they did in Créteil.

MARÍA PALACIOS CRUZ: But was it a separate section? Were any of those films in the competition?

PABLO LA PARRA: The season was held at the Savoy cinema in the Gros neighbourhood of San Sebastian. Just as the Festival had retrospectives and other parallel sections, it also had this section. Some of the directors were in the official section, like Mézsáros, for example. That year’s Festival was slated in the press, it had lots of technical problems and much criticism was levelled against the organisation. And yet, this section got good reviews. For example, Maruja Torres published a swingeing attack on the festival but she specifically said that this particular section was the exception. She stressed how well organised it had been, and she said the discussions were really exciting.

That long-term vision was lacking. One of the women’s self-criticisms, looking back, is that they were so wrapped up in what was happening in the present, so involved in learning so many things in such a short time, that they never paid much attention to the legacy of the event. Now, they are putting together their own archive and compiling all their documentation on their own. They have been very supportive of our project from the outset. However, they were very clear that their one condition for giving us all the information and spending time with us was that it wouldn’t just be part of the internal material of the research. We had to think of ways of making it public. They say there are a lot of things going on right now related to the women’s movement and they think it’s very important to know where it all comes from, to learn what they tried to do and where they failed.

[1] This conversation was originally published in: Garbiñe Ortega (coord.), Hipotesi(s) 1: Transformazioa/Transformación/Transformation(San Sebastian: Elías Querejeta Zine Eskola, 2020), 55-110.