'Menarca' Filmmaker & Catalyst NoBerlinale Guest Lillah Halla on Feeding the Power of Imagination

Still from Menarca, by Brazilian filmmaker Lillah Halla, guest lecturer at Catalyst Berlin

Brazilian filmmaker Lillah Halla recently inspired our student community with a guest session on feminist film theory, as part of our very own noBerlinale festival. Find out more about her vision.

At Catalyst, we believe disappointment is synonymous with innovation. That’s why, when the 2021 Berlinale Festival was cancelled, our events and student experience lead Hannah Deans didn’t settle for a sinking feeling. She and the film team pulled out all the stops to provide an equally enriching and even more engaging online programme of exclusive screenings, remote filmmaking, project presentations, guest sessions, film reviews, and more, to our Film Production students. To top it off, there was even a Zoom screening and awards party!

Lillah Halla was one of our noBerlinale special guests. Hosted by a fellow Brazilian filmmaker, BA and MA tutor Leandro Goddinho, Lillah joined us to give a lecture and Q&A on feminist theory. Speaking from her experience of the film, she gave a brief talk on the process of scriptwriting female characters that subvert foundational archetypes and cultural stereotypes, centred around cinema as a tool for subversive perspectives.

Lillah studied Directing and Scriptwriting at the Escuela Internacional de Cine y Televisión de Cuba. Her latest short film, Menarca, was one of the ten shorts selected at Semaine de La Critique Cannes 2020, awarded in Kurzfilmtage Winterthur 2020. Lillah is also the co-founder of the São Paulo-based film collective Vermelha, a political project for women and queer filmmakers in Brazil.

Menarca is a reinterpretation of the myth of the vagina dentata (“the toothed vagina”), and as film critic Léo SeoSanto wrote at Cannes 2020, a welcome feminist call to arms. “The poison of toxic masculinity threatens Nanã and Mel,” he writes, “who are saved by a fish and a woman: Lillah Halla’s perfect high-wire act between the magic realism of a fairytale and a realistic, stifling atmosphere (ageless, though it echoes present-day Brazil) infers the very essence and turns up the heat before the punk explosion finale.”

“You can choose to look at things differently. You can choose to try to give a voice to people who haven't been heard... I think what we're doing is giving space for reflection and to dream, and to feed the power of imagination, which is the strongest tool we have.”

Like us, Lillah puts storytelling at the centre of her creative practice. Her use of narratives and symbols probe deep into the subconscious of the viewer to create a truly captivating and influential experience. “You can choose to look at things differently,” she says in the inspiring DW Berlinale Talents feature below. “You can choose to try to give a voice to people who haven't been heard... I think what we're doing is giving space for reflection and to dream, and to feed the power of imagination, which is the strongest tool we have.”