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Bellatrix: The Awakening of Feminism 2019

Recommended with Reservations

Distributed by epf media, 324 S. Beverly Drive, PMB 437, Beverly Hills, CA 90212; 310-839-1500
Produced by L.S. Costanzi and Amanda Gatti
Directed by L.S. Costanzi
Streaming, 52 mins

High School - General Adult
Feminism; Gender Identity; Mass Media; Political Science

Date Entered: 03/26/2021

Reviewed by Jennifer Dean, Film Editor, Filmmaker, Film Curator

According to the press packet for Bellatrix: The Awakening of Feminism the inspiration for the film stems from the dismissive and belligerent response of a Brazilian parliamentarian to the inclusion of a Simone de Beauvoir quote on the National College Entrance Exam in which de Beauvoir evokes the biological essentialism of “womanhood,” by stating that “Nobody is born a woman: she becomes a woman.” The film introduces this central theme by having a fictionalized character, Lauren, listening to the politician’s speech and deciding to do her own research on “The Second Sex.” Throughout the narrative we follow Lauren as she meets with professors, pontificates while walking the city streets, reads de Beauvoir's book in the library and googles questions raised.

At points the hybrid nature of exploring this topic is extremely effective, providing a fictional character to navigate complex views with genuine experts as interview subjects. The visual imagery (filmed cityscape footage, manipulated images, drawings and graphics) is simply stunning, including an introduction which depicts the journey of the film from macroscopic to microscopic, starting with a view of the Earth from space zooming into a continent, then a street, finally to the protagonist, Lauren. There are moments where the visual representations are particularly effective such as when a city park turns on its axis (rotates) to literally shift the audience perspective as the statement that not all women desire motherhood questions the traditional point of view promulgated by social norms. Drawings are developed like photographs in a darkroom, visually recreating Lauren’s ideas being formed as she seeks knowledge. As the protagonist wanders the streets processing the themes through voice over, the audience feels as though they are literally mulling through the material as this young woman would, giving a fresh vantage point to concepts which may not necessarily be new to the viewer. Additionally, compelling performance pieces illustrate ideas explicated by the interview subjects, marrying the analytical and the visceral.

That said, some of the framing devices aren’t always as nuanced and effective. A text exchange set in a coffee shop where Lauren’s professor agrees to meet with her for further discussion is unnecessary, adding nothing other than mundane exposition. Several of the faux “reality” scenes are reductive, including a banal discussion over drinks in a bar between Lauren and a few fictional friends. Some of the ideas director/editor Lucas Costanzi raises both through Lauren’s voice over and the interview subjects could be explored more fully - Constanzi barely scratches the surface in regards to the relationship between commodification and misogyny.

The filmmaker does delve deeply into the ramifications of domestic violence, both through the personal story of a victim of violence and expanded analysis by psychologist Débora Oliveira - and many other memorable moments make the film worth Recommending with Reservations. Bellatrix raises many issues ripe for discussion - and despite decades having passed since the writing of de Beauvoir’s seminal book the topic is as timely now as ever.


UNICEF Innocenti Film Festival Festival; Internacional de Cine Político; The Echo BRICS Film Festival (Echo BRICS FF); The BeBop Channel Content Festival LETNetworks; #AmLatino Film Festival Intl; SocioEnvironmental Film Festival of Nova Friburgo (FRICINE); AmazoniaDoc - Festival Pan-Amazônico de Cinema Mostra Sesc de Cinema; MICGénero

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