Medusa (2021)

Director: Anita Rocha da Silveira
Writer: Anita Rocha da Silveira
Cast: Mari Oliveira, Bruna Linzmeyer, Thiago Fragoso, Lara Tremouroux, Bruna G., Felipe Frazão, Joana Medeiros, Arthur Santileone
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 25.10.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) misogyny, religious extremism, domestic violence

Mari (Mari Oliveira) is part of a tight-knit group of young women, with Michele (Lara Tremouroux) as their leader. They are all part of the same church where they are the church choir. Their church emphasizes the importance of flawless beauty as a reflection of a pure life, and the women have to work very hard to keep to the standards that Michele and Mari set. But that’s not enough for them. At night, they put on masks and chase the local women who are not part of their church, who are sinners, to quite literally put the fear of god in them. But one of those outings takes a different turn and Mari finds herself questioning things for the first time.

Medusa takes apart evangelical churches in Brazil from a feminist perspective and it is absolutely glorious to watch. I really loved it.

The film poster showing Michele (Lara Tremoroux) and Mari (Mari Oliveira) huddling in bushes.

20 years ago, I spent a year in Brazil with a host family and my host sister was part of an evangelical church (the rest of the family wasn’t). I once went to church with her, and my areligious ass was very much taken aback by ther fervor I saw there. When the pastor tried to convince me after the service that evolution was a lie (I don’t remember how we got to the subject), I knew that I was out of there. My host sister never tried to get me back there, at least not explicitely, but there was a lot of tension between us, and religion was certainly a part of it.

This is a lenghty introduction to say that I know at least a bit about evangelicalism in Brazil, and Rocha da Silveira nails it in Medusa. She gets the tone just right, even when she pushes things a little further, emphasizing the violence and misogyny of those churches to make it more visible. That she also shows how modern these churches are by now, with influencer videos and more, makes Medusa very sharp in its criticism and its vision of a world we are not that far away from.

The women of the church choir performing, with Michele (Lara Tremoroux) front and center and Mari (Mari Oliveira) to her right.

Mari Oliveira leads us through the film with an excellent performance. Thanks to her being Black, we also get hints here and there about how racism is deeply ingrained into the system and these churches, too.

But what I may have liked best is Mari’s relationship with Michele (also excellently acted by Tremouroux), and the fact that the film never forgets that, in the end, it’s about freeing not just individual women, but women as a group, with an ending that was as symbolic as it was powerful, and a wonderful way to leave the film.

A group of women running through the street, screaming.

Summarizing: the kind of feminist cinema I want to see more of.

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