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BERLINALE 2024 Panorama

Review: Memories of a Burning Body

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- BERLINALE 2024: Antonella Sudasassi Furniss’ second feature film is an emancipatory cry uniting different generations of women who have been held back by limits set by the patriarchy

Review: Memories of a Burning Body

Memories of a Burning Body [+see also:
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by Antonella Sudasassi Furniss, which was presented in a world premiere within the 74th Berlinale’s Panorama section, continues a conversation the director initiated in her debut feature film Hormigas [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
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, which was also selected for Berlin in 2019. In both movies, the director explores the limits and taboos - especially in Latin American and Latin countries more generally - which imprison women and prevent them from clearly expressing their deepest hopes and desires. Whilst the Costa Rican director’s first movie focused on a particular character grappling with pressure to have a third child, preferably a male one, Memories of a Burning Body endeavours to lend a voice to a trio of seventy-something women as they talk publicly, probably for the first time ever, about their relationship with sexuality and their bodies in a sexist and repressive context.

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The director depicts a fictitious conversation, of sorts, which she would have liked to have had with her grandmothers, but with whom she never really had the courage to talk about intimacy. The main challenge in this project is to breathe real life into their words, which have been choked down for too long and which Ana, Patricia and Mayela have dared to entrust her with, without revealing their true selves. It’s a precaution which has, at last, allowed them to talk about themselves without taboos and free from the social pressure imposed on their sex. As one of the protagonists explains in liberated and sincere fashion: “it’s been really difficult to unlearn everything we’ve been taught about being a woman, and to just be human beings”.

It’s actress Sol Carballo who impersonates these three voices in the present-day story, as she wanders throughout a domestic space which has evolved from a prison into a refuge where she can live out a second youth, at long last free from social constructs and taboos. The film depicts the various phases in the protagonists’ lives, their genuine, painfilled stories (of stifled ambitions, domestic violence and abuse at a young age), weaving together the past and the present, voices and images. “Time is a bubble, it’s not linear”, one of the narrating voices insists, as if to remind us that memories, too, form a part of the present, an eternal present which they’re continually transforming. Never pessimistic and surprisingly full of humour, Memories of a Burning Body reveals the hidden side of a society which hasn’t given (and still fails to give) a great deal to women, keeping them in a state of total ignorance over anything sexuality related. It’s a subtle yet constant form of repression, but it hasn’t managed to extinguish the fire still burning in the bodies and hearts of these three women. “You’d need a fire fighter to put out the fire in me”, one of them smilingly insists.

Intelligent, resilient and incredibly sincere, the voices inhabiting this film show us that it’s never too late to reinvent ourselves and to finally take back control of our destiny. The last words spoken by one of these protagonists are prophetic to say the least: “it’s the best period in my life because I’m totally free”. Proud to finally be giving their own version of events, Ana, Patricia and Mayela are living proof of the fact that age is but another social construct, which they refuse to be imprisoned by ever again.

Memories of a Burning Body is produced by Substance Films in co-production with Playlab Films and is sold worldwide by Bendita Film Sales.

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(Translated from Italian)

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