Review: Menarche (2020)

Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur
Promotional Award of The International Competition

Courtesy of Semaine de la Critique

Two young girls Nanã (Amanda Yamamoto) and Mel (Nathally Fonseca) are trying to spend the rest of their childhood as careless as they can by dancing, singing and simply enjoying the beauty of the surrounding nature. Aware of the unhealthy interest by much older men in them, they know that the time has come to find a way to protect themselves.

Women in this Brazilian fishing village are scarce and men’s violent behaviour is intensified by the invasion of piranhas. Nanã’s heavily pregnant mother is sensing trouble as well, and her instinct grows alert by observing one particular man’s interest in her daughter.

It’s the 21 century, and we are nowhere near solving the problem of perpetual violence inflicted upon women. Light years away from completely shielding herself from beatings, rape, sexual mutilation, forced labour, child marriages or rigorous dress codes, whatever a woman does isn’t enough to make her safe. Especially not staying at home, as it turns out.

It is very easy to speak about those things from the protected domestic nest in this very neat and safe city of Vienna, althought it has to be said that despite official laws designed to prevent violence and protect women, the “only” serious crimes we suffer from,are rapes and femicide. The patriarchy simply won’t give up its habits. So, what is there to do? Maybe – seeking advice from mystical female creatures who learned the hard way how to defend themselves?

Reaching for the combination of three myths: the one of Vagina Dentata, a folk tale according to which vaginas are equipped with teeth that can emasculate or castrate men, the water nymph Iara and the Amazon river dolphine (the shapeshifter known as encantado), in their script for Menarche Líbia Perez & Lillah Halla unite several types of all three interpretations into one. Paired with the meaning of the movie’s title and the misconceptions surrounding menstruation, the story becomes a multilayered take on women’s position in our time.

The legend says Iara was punished for murdering her brothers by being drawned in the river, which is why she takes revenge on all men by luring them into the water. But in Menarche, the river nymphe has different ideas how to deal with men. She is not after revenge, she simply wants to be left alone, and definetely not touched down south. Her punishment is biting, and this special skill catches Nanã’s attention. She gets desperate to find out the secret, because she’s sure that she can learn how to do exactly the same and prevent the worst.

The creature’s name turns to be Baubo (Amanda Dourado) and she reveals her secret to the girl in exchange for freedom. We never hear her speak, just “whistles” and “clicks”.

Blue and grey hues settle over this phantasy drama, embracing the popular genre colour palette, draining light from days. It feels as it is either dusk, dawn or night, as the light fights to penetrate the screen.

Menarche has won the Promotional Award of the International Competition at the Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur. The award comes with the money prize of CHF 10.000-.

Original title: Menarca
Country: Brasil
Language: Portuguese
Year: 2020
Runtime: 21′ 51”
Produced by: Gustavo Aguiar, Renata Miyazaki
Directed by: Lillah Halla
Written by: Líbia Perez & Lillah Halla
Cinematographer: Wilssa Esser, DAFB
Art Director: Paloma Mecozzi
Assistant Director: Julia Medeiros
Original Sound/ Music: Karina Buhr, Zé Nigro
Sound Design/ Mix: Ruben Valdés
Editor: Eva Randolph
Costumes: Nina Maria
Makeup Artist: Natie Cortez
Cast: Amanda Yamamoto, Nathally Fonseca, Amanda Dourado, Dinho Lima Flor, Micheline Lemos, Aido Bueno