On 14 November, Liffe cinema-goers enjoyed an interesting film, The Heiresses, and were controversially addressed by its director, Marcelo Martinessi. Before the screening, the filmmaker declared that he liked coming to Eastern Europe, having first-hand experience of repressive dictatorship, which our countries fortunately succeeded in overthrowing at the same time. Paraguayan director Martinessi compared the brutal regime of pro-American anti-communist Alfredo Stroessner with our ‘Eastern-European’ system. As Martinessi’s film deals with the situation of women in patriarchal militarist dictatorship, in which women – alongside the rest of the population – are oppressed, it is strange to compare that hard-line regime with a system that provided women with the right to vote, public health and education as well as housing and infrastructure and, ultimately, legalisation of abortion.
During the post-screening Q&A with Damijan Vinter the director revealed that he had been raised by women, and his views disclosed his feminist slant. This position is still highly progressive in Paraguay, and the struggle for sexual rights and freedom of sexual expression is still in its infancy. By making a movie about an older lesbian couple, Martinessi wanted to address a social taboo. Although the former dictatorship (of capital and not the proletariat) used the cinematic medium to represent women as heroines, the system did not actually allow them to take on this role. The director struggles to counter such perception of female characters by depicting them as authentically and realistically as possible.
Photo Iztok Dimc