A talented filmmaker whose childhood didn't seem to point toward a career as a director, Patricia Cardoso had been calling the shots behind the lens for over a decade when she exploded onto the scene with her funny and personal comedy drama Real Women Have Curves (2002). The tale, originally written by Josefina Lopez as a play, struck close to home for Cardoso, in that it resembled her own childhood. Her revealing direction, coupled with Lopez's insightful screenplay, offered a refreshingly introspective coming-of-age story about a young Mexican-American teen on the verge of womanhood.
Cardoso is the daughter of two Colombian architects and was raised in Bogota; in 1987, the family opted for a new life in the U.S. After earning a degree in archeology and anthropology, Cardoso felt creatively stifled; nevertheless, she made her mark in the world of archeology by discovering the Tairona culture's oldest C-14 date and having her findings published in numerous academic journals. Subsequent work as a teacher at Universidad Javeriana and a stint as an assistant director at the Colombian Institute of Culture failed to fulfill Cardoso's creative void, and fond memories of staging cardboard-box plays as a youngster led the aspiring director to use her Fulbright scholarship (the first to be awarded to a Colombian for film studies) to attend film school at U.C.L.A. Work as an intern at the Sundance Film Festival and as a research assistant for Oscar-winning documentary filmmakers Terry Sanders and Freida Lee Mock helped to satisfy Cardoso's hunger for creatively challenging work, and it wasn't long before she was trying her hand at screenwriting and filmmaking. Following early success with a short story entitled Big Blue Bus (for which she won the Santa Monica Bus 70th Year Anniversary Writing Contest), Cardoso wrote four feature-length screenplays including: Jose Gregorio, Milky Way Dreamland, Alien of Extraordinary Abilities, and Little Saint. A series of short films, including The Air Globes (1990) and The Water Carrier of Cucunba (1994), preceded the near-feature length The Kingdom of Heaven (also 1994), and the emerging director bided her time while developing her first feature film. Real Women Have Curves debuted in 2002 to great critical acclaim. A tender coming-of-age tale about an overweight high school graduate who learns to be comfortable in her body and who faces some crucial life decisions, the film won the Humanitas Prize in addition to bringing home an Independent Spirit award and winning awards at both the San Sebastian International Film Festival and the Sundance Film Festival.