In Anita Rocha da Silveira’s haunting thriller, Medusa, Mari, and her friends broadcast their spiritual devotion through pastel pinks and catchy evangelical songs about purity and perfection. Still, underneath it all, they harbor a deep rage. By day they hide behind their manicured facade, and by night they form a masked vigilante girl gang, prowling the streets in search of sinners who have deviated from the rightful path. After an attack goes wrong, leaving Mari scarred and unemployed, her views of community, religion, and her peers begin to shift. Nightmares of repressed desires and haunting visions of alluring temptation become undeniable, and the urge to scream and release her paralyzing inner demons is more powerful than ever before. A neon-tinged genre-bender that gives provocative form to the overwhelming feminine fury coursing through modern life, MEDUSA dares us not to look away. I spoke with director Anita Rocha da Silveira about her approach to filmmaking.
“…because she was no longer a virgin, Athena transformed her into this horrible creature.”
I can’t tell you what a thrill this is. When I think of all my favorite movies I reviewed last year, this is always the first movie I think of. How did you come up with the idea for Medusa?
I came across the idea in 2015. I read an article about a group of young women who got together to get another woman because they considered this girl to be promiscuous. So they not only were going to beat her, but the plan was also to make her ugly. So they cut her face, and they cut her hair. It was in the news in Brazil because the girl had some neurological issues afterward. But then, some weeks after, I read similar news. The first girl was around 16. I read one where the girl was around 20. So I started researching and found a lot of news about girls or young women getting together to hunt another girl. And, for me, that had a lot to do with the recent rise of the ultra-right in Brazilian society. It has a lot to do with Bolsonaro and other ultra-right elements that were every day more public and more out there. It has a lot to do with ultra-right Youtubers. So I started to research this world. Also, when I saw this news, it reminded me of the myth of Medusa. In the origin of the myth, Medusa was a wonderful young woman working at an Athenian temple. In one version, she was raped; in another, she fell into temptation. But because she was no longer a virgin, Athena transformed her into this horrible creature. So I started to think why does a myth that has some thousand years still can resonate within contemporary Brazil. So that was the starting point: I was thinking about Brazilian society, the ultra-right advance, and some Greek myths that suddenly make sense again right now.
Have you had much pushback or reaction from the ultra-right wing factions in your country over this movie?
The film has not premiered in Brazil so far, only in film festivals. But since the movie’s name is Medusa, I don’t think the ultra-right realizes what kind of film this is. So far, we are out of the radar. Also, the ultra-right don’t go to the cinemas. So they haven’t realized this film exists.