Pi Brujas, Rosario


Barcelona, 1899 – Madrid, 1967


Rosario Pi Brujas was a Spanish businesswoman, actress, director of cinema, and screenwriter during the 1930’s and 40’s in Spain and Italy. She is considered the first woman director of talkies in Spain. She is particularly notable for her work as a director in the last two films of the production company Star Films: El Gato Montés (The Wild Cat) (1935), and Molinos de Viento (Windmills) (1937).

Pi Brujas, Rosario


Rosario Pi Brujas was a Spanish businesswoman, actress, director of cinema, and screenwriter during the 1930’s and 40’s in Spain and Italy. She is considered the first woman director of talkies in Spain.

Born and raised in Barcelona, Rosario Pi suffered from a paralysis during her childhood, causing her to require a walking stick and special footwear for the rest of her life, on account of the limp she suffered as a long-term complication. We know little of her personal and professional life prior to her entry into the world of cinema. While José Luis Borau states that she ended up in film following the disastrous failure of her lingerie business in Barcelona, Barbara Zecchi considers that, judging by the press, this shop must have been high-fashion, attracting the classiest clientele of the city, and that it is not at all clear whether Pi closed the business for economic reasons or with a desire to dedicate herself to cinema: probably driven by the show business entertainers who frequented the shop. Regardless, the remarkable thing is that Pi hailed from neither the world of theatre nor photography, unlike the other women pioneers of Spanish cinema.

Having settled in Madrid, Rosario Pi established the production company Star Films, relying on the financial support of the Mexican businessman Emilio Gutiérrez Bringas and the Spanish screenwriter Pedro Ladrón de Guevara, as she was the first known woman to sit as president of a film production company in Spain. Between 1931 and 1935, Star Films produced the first talkies by some of the most renowned directors of the moment in Spanish cinema, beginning with the medium-length ¡Yo quiero que me lleven a Hollywood! (I Want Them to Take Me to Hollywood) (Edgar Neville, 1932), followed by the short Besos en la nieve (Kisses in the Snow) (José María Beltrán, 1933), and the feature films El hombre que se reía del amor (The Man Who Laughed at Love) (Benito Perojo, 1933) and Doce hombres y una mujer (Twelve Men and a Woman) (Fernando Delgado, 1934). The latter film, which was about the adventures of a high-society lady who gets mixed up in a secret society, had a script written by Rosario Pi herself, based on the original plot by the writer Wenceslao Fernández Flores.

The final two productions of Star Films, El gato montés (The Wild Cat) (1935) and Molinos de viento (Windmills) (1937), both adaptations of their homonymous zarzuelas, would be directed by Rosario Pi. In the case of El Gato Montés (1935), whose script was also written by Pi, the gynocentric positioning taken by the author merits special attention: while respecting the plot of the original zarzuela by Manuel Penella (1916), the film’s protagonist, the gypsy Soleá, is converted from the passive woman of the original into an independent woman, capable of fighting for her liberty in a world of men, taking two lovers at a time without feeling guilty nor being presented as culpable. A more detailed analysis can be found in the article by Alejandro Melero listed in the bibliography. Other writers highlight the incorporation of Surrealist and Avant-Garde elements into the film, considering it a stylistic forebear of Abismos de pasión (Abyss of Passion) (Luis Buñuel, 1953), an observation that has on occasion obscured the films own uniqueness.

For its part, Molinos de Viento (1937), a feature film for which there are no known conserved copies, is notable for being one of few private productions made during the Guerra Civil (1936-1939). This film was not premiered in Spain until after the end of the conflict, being censored in the Republican Zone due to the director’s sympathies for the insurgency. It could, however, be seen in New York, where it received bad reviews. Little is known of the film, but of interest is the fact that it starred a very young María Mercader. The sixteen-year-old, who had worked as a secretary on Pi’s previous film, would from this point be a key component in the director’s life.

Both having fled to Paris during the war, Rosario Pi managed to get María Mercader small parts in French productions. They then established themselves in Italy, where the actress worked for Fox in the studios of Cinecitta, having turned down a similar offer from Fox in Hollywood. While María Mercader made her way as head of distribution for an abundance of films, outstanding amongst which are those she made with the director (and her future husband) Vittorio de Sica, Rosario Pi translated dialogue into Spanish, opened a small nightclub in Rome, and worked production jobs. Hit once more by post-war severity, this time following the Second World War (1939-1945), they both returned to Spain, accompanied by De Sica. All three of them sought work in the film studios of Madrid and Barcelona, without luck.

The last news we have of Pi place her once again in the world of fashion. Working for the high-fashion company Mabel, which interestingly provided attire to famous customers such as the actress and director Ana Mariscal. Additionally, Rosario Pi opened a restaurant in Madrid: the city in which she passed away in 1967. 

MAE, Óscar Palomares Navarro, 2020




ANDÚJAR MOLINA, Olvido (2015). «Rosario Pí: una narradora pionera e invisibilizada» en Nómadas. Critical Journal of Social and Juridical Sciences, vol. 43, nº 3.

MARTÍNEZ TEJEDOR, María Concepción (2007-2008). «Mujeres al otro lado de la cámara: ¿dónde están las directoras de cine?» en Revistas Espacio, Tiempo y Forma. Serie VII, Historia del Arte, nº 20-21, pp. 315-340.

— (2016). Directoras pioneras del cine español. Madrid: Fundación First Team.

MELERO, Alejandro (2010). «Apropiación y reapropiación de la voz femenina en la “españolada”. El caso de El gato montés» en Arenal. Revista de historia de las mujeres, nº 17, vol. 1, pp. 157-174.


MERCADER, María (1980). Mi vida con Vittorio De Sica. Barcelona: Plaza & Janés.

ZECCHI, Barbara (2014). La pantalla sexuada. Madrid: Cátedra; Valencia, Universitat de València.

— (2014). Desenfocadas. Cineastas españolas y discursos de género. Barcelona: Icaria.

ZURIÁN, Francisco A. (coord.). (2015). Construyendo una mirada propia: mujeres directoras en el cine español. De los orígenes al año 2000. Madrid: Síntesis.