Exploring gender dynamics in cinema with filmmaker Moara Passoni

Êxtase by Moara Passoni.

We reflect on a powerful recent Creative Production MA guest session on Gender Dynamics in Cinema, led by award-winning Brazilian director of Êxtase, Moara Passoni. 

At Catalyst, we believe storytelling is one of the most powerful means to inspire, influence, teach, connect and ultimately drive change. And there are few storytelling mediums that can transport us into the moment and leave a lasting impression like film. Êxtase, the award-winning film by Brazilian director Moara Passoni – the co-author and producer of Petra Costa's Academy Award-nominated film The Edge of Democracy – is a striking example of how weaving personal stories into the wider societal narrative can encourage, en masse, important new perspectives on often misunderstood topics. 

Êxtase is an elliptical essay portrait of a young girl experiencing both rapture and torture, starving herself as a way to find a place in a brutal uncertain world. Moara Passoni “transmutes a young Brazilian woman's experience of anorexia into images and thoughts of almost ecstatic beauty. Against the backdrop of political and social upheaval in 1990s Brazil, and interweaving memories of her own adolescence with those of other women, Passoni goes beyond pop-culture conventions and the sensationalizing of eating disorders to meditate on the dissolution and perfection of the self, the modernist architecture of Oscar Niemeyer's Brasilia, the meaning of Humpty Dumpty, and what she calls ‘the geometry of hunger’.”

We were honoured to host Passoni for a guest session on Gender Dynamics in Cinema, as part of our Creative Production MA Modern Cinematic Perspectives Workshop. Students from all of our film courses, as well as alumni, were invited to view Êxtase and take part in a Q&A with the director. 

“Moara's film, and the discussion we shared about the film after viewing, shattered my preconceived notions and the stereotypes around women who have experienced Anorexia,” reflects MA student Jenny Jo Stokka. “Her film beautifully explores the psychological and emotional complexities of a condition that most of society overlooks as merely a problem of vanity. The way Moara wove together real-world stories of women who have lived with Anorexia –  along with her own personal story – helped to highlight the unique and varied ways that one can experience and process the trauma of an eating disorder.” 

First-year Film Production student, Mia-Maria Schanz, learnt from Êxtase how architecture can play a big part in the character’s narrative. “It was also nice to hear how the team managed to produce a hybrid documentary while still using an organic filming process,” she says.

“Passoni’s art brings a fresh way to produce, teaching us how to write not only with words but with images in a very courageous and modern way,” reflects Patricia Gomes, senior foreign correspondent at Wall Street International Magazine. “Through this session, Moara, ‘provoked’ me, woke me up and invited me to leave my comfort zone. The session was a great encouragement to restart and pursue my goal to produce and to film.”