Maria Joao Sigalho has been a producer for Portugal based Rosa Filmes since 2002 during which time she has produced nine feature films, each dealing with dramatically different subject matter. For the extraordinary range of her vision and interests, especially the riveting and multi-award winning film Morrer Como Um Homem/To Die Like A Man, Maria is receiving TheWIFTS Foundation Diversity Award 2011.
Born in Mozambique, in 1973, Maria studied law at Lisbon University, followed by postgraduate studies in judicial proceeding sciences and the administration of the law at the Portuguese Catholic University. After working as a lawyer for 5 years, she spent 2 years producing theatre plays. Motivated to pursue production further, Maria was admitted in the master's program for cinema production and distribution at La Femis - École National Supérieure des Metiers d'Image et du Son in Paris.
In 2003, Maria produced Mulher Policia / Police Woman, which tells the story of a mother and a son who flee their home to avoid being separated from one another by state agencies who want to take the child from his mother as a result of various crimes he committed. Mulher Policia had its international debut in the Panorama section of the International Film Festival of Berlin. On the heels of this success, Maria was invited by the European Film Promotion and the Portuguese Film Institute to represent Portugal in the initiative Producers on the Move at the Cannes Film Festival.
In 2005, Maria produced the feature documentary Diarios da Bosnia / Bosnian Diaries about the horrors of the Balkan conflict and the feature film Odete / Two Drifters, which had its world premiere at the 37th Directors' Fortnight, Cannes Film Festival 2005. In 2006, Maria was the sole Portuguese producer invited to participate in the Copenhagen Think Tank on European Film and the European Film Policy.
Morrer Como Um Homem / To Die Like A Man (2009), which saw its world premiere at the 62nd Festival de Cannes – Un Certain Regard, captured a bevy of international awards and was the Portuguese Candidate for the Foreign Language Film Award 2011 by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Los Angeles, CA. The film tells the story of a transvestite who tries to erase any past history of herself as a male, but dies before accomplishing her goal, ironically and tragically being interred with her male identity engraved on her headstone.
Maria's most recent productions O que há de novo no Amor? / What's new about Love? and Deste Lado da Ressurreição / This Side of Resurrection saw their world premieres at Indie Lisboa'11 and the Toronto International Film Festival 2011, respectively. Currently, Maria is producing two feature films, Rosto/The Face and A Vida do Avesso/Life Upside Down, and the feature documentary Joao Benard da Costa (working title).
In addition to her activity as a producer, Maria has also led numerous seminars, workshops and master classes on financing, production, distribution and promotion of films, invited by, among others, the State University of Kaliningrad in Russia, the Institute of Social and Political Sciences in Lisbon, and the Lisbon Film School. She has also participated as speaker in various conferences and round tables.