Bárbara Virgínia

Bárbara Virgínia, born Maria do Carmo Miranda da Cunha (15 November 1923 – 7 March 2015[1]), was a Portuguese actress, radio personality and film director.[2] She changed her name in her teenage years. Bárbara studied dance, singing, piano and theater at the National Conservatory in Lisbon between 1940 and 1943. Theater was studied under Alves da Cunha, and piano was taught by Pedro de Freitas Branco. She later in 1946, became the first female Portuguese movie director, with the film Três Dias Sem Deus.[2]

Bárbara Virgínia
Maria de Lourdes Dias Costa

(1923-11-15)15 November 1923
Died7 March 2015(2015-03-07) (aged 91)
Resting placeMorumbi cemetery
  • Actress
  • film director
  • radio personality
WebsiteIMDB profile


Bárbara Virgínia was the first woman in Portugal to ever direct a feature film (there were some women before her who directed and produced films, but mainly documentaries or silent pictures). Her debut film was Três Dias sem Deus (Three Days without God, 1946) which she both directed and acted in. She was, at the time, only 22 years old – the youngest female director of that period. The film premiered in Lisbon on 30 August 1946 at the Teatro do Ginásio. The same year it was presented at the first Cannes Film Festival; Bárbara being the only solo female director whose work was presented. Today only 22 minutes remains of the original 102 minutes long film, these 22 minutes are fragmented and without sound.[2]

She also directed the documentary Aldeia dos rapazes: Orfanto St. Isabel de Albarraque (Village of the Boys: Sta. Isabel de Albarraque Orphanage).

She directed these two pieces within a strongly male dominant sector and during the dictatorship of Salazar’s New State (Estado Novo) where women were expected to stay within reproductive work and not perform productive work.[3] And it would take until after the regime fell before another woman, Margarida Cordeiro, would direct another featured film in Portugal. Still today the representation of female directors is low in Portugal, around 14% since the 80’s.[4]

In 1952, she moved to Brazil, since she’s been rejected financial support for other film projects and a more oppressive control over the cinematic productions in Portugal. Bárbara has later stated that she has always been independent and that was the reason for the censorship to dismiss her. In Brazil she continued working within the culture sector as an actress in television, writing books and perform poetry recitations in the radio, but she never again directed or starred in another film.[citation needed]

Her name and accomplishment was for long lost in the Portuguese film history. But in the 2010s her contributions to the Portuguese cinematic heritage has been, somewhat, redeemed. Today there is a reward in her name.[citation needed]

In 2015, a reward was established in Portugal in her name, Prémio Bárbara Virgínia, to recognise female artists who stands out within arts. Also, in 2017, Luisa Sequeira’s documentary, Quem é Bárbara Virgínia? (Who is Bárbara Virgínia? 2017) had premier, which paints a portrait of Bárbara Virgínia and her cinematic history.[citation needed]

Personal lifeEdit

When Bárbara decided to move to São Paulo, Brazil in 1952, her mother accompanied her. She settled her and started a family – with husband and a daughter. She also opened a restaurant – Aqui, Portugal – where a vibrant social and artistic network used to hang around. Some of her famous guests were Edith Piaf, Tony de Matos and Amália Rodrigues. The last interview with Bárbara was in 2012 by Ana Catarina Pereira and William Pianco.[2]


Year Title Role Notes
1946 Aldeia dos rapazes: Orfanato Sta. Isabel de Albarraque Director
Três Dias Sem Deus Director and actress (role: Lídia)
Sonho de Amor Actress (role: Alda)
Neve em Lisboa Narator
1947 Aqui, Portugal Actress


  1. ^ Sequeira, Luísa. "Who is Bárbara Virgínia?". IMDb.
  2. ^ a b c d Sequeiros, Paula; Sequeira, Luísa (22 December 2017). "Forget Bárbara Virgínia? A forerunner filmmaker between Portugal and Brazil". Comunicação e Sociedade. 32: 353–374. doi:10.17231/comsoc.32(2017).2766. ISSN 2183-3575.
  3. ^ Bloomsbury.com. "Portuguese Film, 1930-1960". Bloomsbury Publishing. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
  4. ^ LabCom.IFP. "Communication Philosophy Humanities". Communication + Philosophy + Humanities. Retrieved 14 May 2018.

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