By Mónica Delgado
Aurora, by the Costa Rican filmmaker Paz Fábrega, is a film that will give women a lot to talk about. In current Latin American contexts in which national public health policies for women and diversities are defended and approved -such as the recent demand for laws for the interruption of unwanted pregnancies, in girls, adolescents and above all, victims of abuse or in a situation of poverty- appears a film that installs another common sense, or rather puts it to the test, with expressive choices that allow an opposite point of view for discussion: the apparent defense of maternity wards, through the relationship between a teacher and a young adolescent in a state of pregnancy.
In Latin American cinema, abortion or adolescent pregnancy has been scarcely explored by female filmmakers, and rather, in the face of these absences, certain films have appeared from feminist activism -or outside of it- as it happens with the documentary Niña mama (2019) by the Argentine Andrea Testa (about which we will write in a future post). However, from fiction there have been some explorations about femininity, sexuality or agency or rights over bodies precisely from the complexity of this problem, that of girls or adolescents and young people in precarious or vulnerable pregnancies. Aurora picks up on this dilemma, but draws it from a premise assumed per se, to the point that the Deus ex machina becomes the axis of the film’s turns.
In Aurora, everything seems to be ready to defend a thesis: in adversity, you have to accept the design of being a mother. And it is also a “more creative” approach for the confirmation of stereotypes and paradigms about motherhood or about the delegitimization of the right to abort or give up adoption, from a conservative discourse: that of the characters or that of the director?
Aurora could be a film about the polarities or differences of two women, very different from one another, frustrated in their desire for change, because neither can achieve what they propose or dream of: one is prematurely pregnant as a schoolgirl and the other, lonely and self-sufficient, fails to convince her that there are more opportunities away from the idea of ??being a mother. Or is living like Luisa not attractive at all? However, based on some decisions in its staging, in the dramatic turns, the route taken by Aurora gradually confirms some positions on the subject and its respective moral.
The film, which is competing for the Tiger Award, begins by introducing us to its protagonist Luisa (played by Rebeca Woodbridge, an art teacher and architect in real life and in this fiction), a forty-year-old middle-class woman, determined, thoughtful, that looks mature, living fully. When the sister of one of her students, Julia (Raquel Villalobos), appears, vomiting Citotec (misoprostol) in the school toilets, Luisa presumes the pregnancy and considers it an opportunity to help and save a girl with limited resources of an unpromising future. What seems like a complicity, becomes a relationship of discreet tension, to the point that the ideas of a feminist Luisa about the disadvantages of motherhood and the advantages of giving a child for adoption are diluted before a Julia who is giving in to conservative family circles and the idea of ??quitting school to raise a baby.
The dismantling of the possibility of brotherhood between these two women is marked by abrupt directorial decisions: such as the scenes that give details about the conception, or the hippie atmosphere to describe the adolescent arcade that shelters Julia, a young woman who is not very expressive and repressed, who hardly knows how to say what she feels. Placing a soulless and unfriendly character, even with her friends, in the midst of a climate of sexual freedom very much like May ’68, cannot be seen as anything other than a forced strategy. As imposed as the “fortuitous” encounter with the mother on a bus, the disappearance of her father figure (erased with an ax blow) or as the scene of the loving bonds that are born between future grandparents.
After seeing Aurora, I thought of Medea (2017) by Alexandra Latishev, also from Costa Rica, and produced by Fábrega, since they are opposite sides of the same coin: two views on the same problem. Both films share women’s names in their titles that symbolize something beyond the real; They appeal to a symbolic idea of ??the myth of the autonomous woman or the goddess of the dawn. A diptych? Both have characters in crisis living experiences of instability and the pain of unwanted pregnancies. While in Medea, interrupting a pregnancy is liberating, in Aurora its impediment is the confirmation of a status quo, shown from embellished (and utopian) shots that augur a better future (even if we know there isn’t one).
Direction and script: Paz Fábrega
Photography: María Secco
Editor: Soledad Salfate
Production designer: Catalina Tenorio
Sound design: Federico Moreira
Music: Alex Catona
Cast: Rebeca Woodbridge, Raquel Villalobos, Liliana Biamonte, Daniela Arroio, Marcela Jarquín, Kattia González
Costa Rica, Mexico, 2021, 92 min