Jump directly to the page contents

94 min. Spanish.

Isa is a dressmaker and lives with her family in a small town in Costa Rica. She and her two daughters all have luxuriant long hair, of which they take exquisite care. It is plaited and combed, knots are carefully untangled, chewing gum laboriously removed. No scissors are used. Alcides, Isa’s husband and the father of the two girls, wants a third child – a son. Isa, however, doesn’t want another pregnancy. She wants to focus on working and already has more than enough on her plate with two children and the household, which she manages on her own. Until now, she’s never questioned her role within the family. Yet when she notices that Alcides doesn’t seem to be listening and persists with his wish for a third child, she realises that something must change. She secretly obtains birth-control pills. Is she now starting to take charge of her sexuality and identity? Told in vivid colours and with fleeting moments of surrealism, El despertar de las hormigas is the arresting story of the emancipation of a young woman, who despite the narrow confines of patriarchal social structures begins to find her own path and articulate her own needs. (Caroline Pitzen)

Antonella Sudasassi Furniss was born in San José, Costa Rica in 1986. She studied Media Management and Audiovisual Production at the Universidad de Costa Rica. During her studies, she worked on a series of audiovisual projects, founded the Chop Chop Collective and was a member of Cinealianza, an association of filmmakers campaigning for the introduction of a Costa Rican film law. After her studies she moved to Europe, living in Berlin for three and a half years. In 2017, she took part in the Berlinale Talents programme in Guadalajara. Antonella Sudasassi Furniss works as a writer and director. El Despertar de las hormigas is her first feature-length film.

What makes women give themselves up?

‘Nothing could be more dangerous and delicate than an anthill.’
(Roberto Calasso, 1998)

I come from a family of strong women. My paternal grandmother, head of the household, raised her seven children alone. My maternal grandmother had eleven children, my mother five. All my memories of love revolve around situations or conversations with my mom, my sisters, my aunts, my grandmothers. I learned about love from them. They unknowingly taught me that love should be unconditional, indulgent, they taught me to place others first, to love in a ‘maternal’ way.
We seldom relate machismo with love. And we rarely associate it with the more feminine side we think we have. Maternal love is often macho, and these patterns that we learn, we repeat them in the different spheres of our lives. Learning to love is a political act.
With EL DESPERTAR DE LAS HORMIGAS I wanted to reflect on those small actions that daily teach us women to please, serve, attend, be married, be mothers, be for others – teachings and expectations that do not arise from bad intentions, but out of tradition.
I wanted to tell a story that portrays that idealised and macho motherly love that leads us to give ourselves to others and forget about ourselves. Isabel is a simple woman. She has never questioned what it is she wants. Her femininity, sexuality and personal fulfilment have been defined through the expectations of others, which she, without reflection, assumed as her own. Life found her in her 30s, married with two daughters, with a husband from a large family who states very clearly what is expected of her. Isabel begins to doubt things. And from that doubt arises a great and silent revolution.

The third wave of feminism
We are currently living the third wave of feminism, in a context of great mobilisation, where women around the world shout in unison #NiUnaMenos and #MeToo. With EL DESPERTAR DE LAS HORMIGAS, I seek to explore the unspoken acts of violence, those that are silenced, those that are kept at home. Abuse and micro-machismo are taught behind closed doors through small actions. It is our responsibility to break the silence, abandon our habits and re-educate our children through love. This is the real revolution.
To me, this movie represents the fears and insecurities that accompany the process of discovering yourself as a woman in a changing world, which at times gives you permissive glimpses, allowing you to believe you can decide, but constantly tempts you with tradition. We are still infinitely conservative. Isabel – just like me – understands that she has to stop to simply be and decide who she wants to be.
The story of Isabel in EL DESPERTAR DE LAS HORMIGAS is part of a transmedia project which seeks to explore sexuality in the vital stages of women. The project is interdisciplinary and collaborative and invites artists from all over the world to create a collective mosaic of honest experiences about femininity and sexuality in order to demystify them and provoke a rupture with the violence inherent in traditional gender roles. Ever since I showed my short films in the Costa Rican countryside for the first time, I knew that I wanted to show this aspect of Costa Rican life. The audience had never seen themselves depicted on the big screen, and when I saw their reactions and heard their comments, I realised I had to keep working on the subject of their lives. 

The lack of sexual education
I need to tell stories, I need to connect with the audience and film is the most beautiful way I have found to explore human behaviour and express the stories I need to tell. Writing the script for EL DESPERTAR DE LAS HORMIGAS was a deeply personal as well as political way of pursuing this interest.
After the Costa Rican government started introducing sex education programmes in public schools a few years ago, a group of parents united under the slogan ‘I educate my children,’ which unfortunately perpetuates the myths around sexuality. It is clear that the lack of discussion about sexuality results in high rates of teen pregnancy, illegal abortions, sexual violence, as well as frustration and dissatisfaction. This scenario is repeated in many other Latin American countries. Learning about healthy sexuality, with women able to exercise the right to decide on their own bodies, and learning about the responsibility that we have for our own pleasure and satisfaction, is also a political act. (Antonella Sudasassi Furniss)

Production Amaya Izquierdo, José Esteban Alenda. Production companies Betta Films (San José, Costa Rica), Solita Films (Madrid, Spain). Written and directed by Antonella Sudasassi Furniss. Cinematography Andrés Campos. Editing Raúl De Torres. Music Sergio De La Puente. Sound design Vicente Villaescusa. Sound Abraham Arce, Stefano Zolla. Production design Laura Castillo. Costumes Ruth Vargas. Make-up Alessandra Calleja. With Daniella Valenciano (Isabel), Leynar Gómez (Alcides), Isabella Moscoso (Valery), Avril Alpízar (Nicole), Adriana Álvarez (Vanessa), Carolina Fernández (Mireya), Katia Arce (Carmen).

World sales FiGa Films
Premiere February 12, 2019, Forum


2008: Descartable (6 min.). 2010: De cómo para Cecilia el rojo dejó de ser fuego (9 min.). 2016: El Despertar de las hormigas: niñez (17 min.). 2019: El despertar de las hormigas / Hormigas.

Photo: © Betta Films

Funded by:

  • Logo Minister of State for Culture and the Media
  • Logo des Programms NeuStart Kultur