A sun-bleached bungalow on a cracked side street of matching disrepair, the house which Raquel Hernandes Reis and her father Hermes have inherited from his father is a step down from the big city but a necessary change; her mother is dead, and circumstances forced Hermes to close his bookshop, instead setting up a grocery store in the small town where they find themselves.
The rainforests of Brazil surrounding on every side, the modern world is a distant place, and while Raquel quickly makes friends with Ana Helena and Laura from the ministry youth group her relationship with faith is as profound as theirs but defiantly personal; Ana Helena the daughter of Igreja de Monte Megido leader Elisa who preaches passion, glory and punishment, Raquel questions what is presented as absolute, the subservient role of women, the Bible as a fixed text unchanged over time.
Starring Valentina Herszage as Raquel, her attempts to open eyes and minds are regarded as sacrilege, a threat to both the men of Monte Megido, the fathers, brothers and boyfriends who know best and must be obeyed, and mother church itself, the vulnerable teenager simultaneously accused of believing she is a prophet and decried as a false prophet who tries to add her own words to the Bible.
Raquel 1:1 written and directed by Mariana Bastos, it depicts a resistance to change endemic in communities and societies where power is held disproportionately by a few; while Brazil is ostensibly a patriarchy, women the victims of their control and their oppression, Raquel having witnessed her mother Vera’s murder at the hands of her jealous boyfriend, in Monte Megido it is Elisa (Lianna Matheus) who controls the church and so the community.
On her word Hermes’ shop can be boycotted, destroying their livelihood, and under her influence Ana Helena (Priscila Bittencourt) enacts a campaign of vilification, denouncing Raquel as a witch and a satanist but magnanimously offering a way back to the church if she will capitulate and submit to their stated condition of a “ritual of healing and deliverance” rather than addressing her trauma through therapy.
Raquel caught in the border between the conditioning of civilisation and the untamed wilderness which calls to her in animal voices, the justifiable rage of Raquel 1:1 is uncomfortable viewing but uneven, Bastos presenting a condemnation of church and conformity but unsure what to do with her youthful cast who often seem as though they are presenting archetypes mouthing debating points than characters, admirable in having the film driven principally by women but undermining that intent by having the men depicted as subsidiaries who are either predatory or ineffectual.
Raquel 1:1 is available on digital download now