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Gender imbalance stops jury from awarding Spain's National Cinematography Prize

Three extra women have to be included on the panel of judges before the award can be announced

All the members of the jury had reported to their posts on Monday morning in the Culture Ministry building in Madrid. They were ready to choose this year's winner of the National Cinematography Prize, when an unforeseen problem arose. Carlos Cuadros, general manager of the Institute of Cinematography and Audiovisual Arts (ICAA), announced that the meeting had to be called off because the panel of judges did not meet the legal requirement of gender parity.

According to the 2007 Equality Law, public offices must enforce parity between men and women and, in particular, they must make sure neither sex has less than 40-percent participation. The panel of judges was composed of nine men and three women or, in other words, 70 versus 30 percent.

"We are so used to the fact that there are always fewer women that we didn't even realize"

The judges were astounded. The names of those chosen to be part of the panel were published on July 12 in the Official State Gazette, and only one week later did the irregularity come to the fore. Some of the members were angry: "They should have told us earlier and they would have spared us from coming all the way here," one of them argued.

"I think it is an absolute lack of competence that they only realized today, when the names were revealed a week ago," another complained. Pedro Pérez, president of the audiovisual producers and member of the panel, did not hide his disappointment. "It is a pity that a prize with the prestige of those who won it in the past has serious formal errors this year, when it should be perfect," he said.

Recent winners include the director Alex de la Iglesia and the actors Javier Bardem and Maribel Verdú.

According to one of the three women in the jury, Inés París (film director and president of CIMA, the association of female film producers), they did not notice that there was an imbalance. "We are so used to the fact that there are always fewer women that we didn't even realize," she told elpais.com.

The jury will meet again next Friday to decide on the winner of the award. Three associations have already announced that they will send women instead of men as their representatives for the new panel of judges.