To regard the high-energy music sung by Brazilians in The Cotton Wool War as being the sound of the city’s heartbeat would be apt. It is the product of a flourishing Brazilian culture that is unable to contain their appreciation for freedom. The extent of their passion knows no limit; even in the absence of instruments, it would not deter folks from slapping their bodies like a drum to create background music.
As rampant as this cultural expressionism runs throughout Brazil, so too lies an inherited sexism that – despite previous women’s liberation efforts – continues to exist as an everyday reality for Brazilian women.
The Cotton Wool War understands the potential that these toxic attitudes have on progress and explores their existence under an objectionable gaze.
With a reference to Virginia Woolf’s work in both title and subject matter, The Cotton Wool War focuses on unconscious sexism rearing its ugly head.
Dora (Dora Goritzki), a teenager who has been raised in Germany, is forced to stay in Brazil under the supervision of her estranged grandmother, Maria (Thaia Perez). Dora is unknowing to the reason for her visit to Brazil, nor does she know much about her grandmother. This creates most of the tension throughout The Cotton Wool War’s brief run-time and sets the film up to become a well-thought-out dissection on gender inequality.
Dora’s German upbringing causes people to never see her as Brazilian enough – a result which sees her having to prove herself as Brazilian. Dora’s need to rationalise her familial and cultural identity further complicates circumstances, with The Cotton Wool War successfully managing to juggle a broad scope of issues without feeling overbearing; a feat which is more impressive considering the brevity of the film.
Despite their characters’ affluence, both actors leave lasting impressions due to their ability to make the struggle feel relatable. Dora’s mounting resentment towards her family finds her engaging in regrettable behaviour. If not giving the silent treatment, Dora is curt in response and often aggressive towards her soft-spoken grandmother. The differences between the two juxtaposes the hardships faced by women of different generations and helps establish The Cotton Wool War as being more than just a film with an angst-ridden teenager at the helm.
Marilia Hughes and Cláudio Marques manage directorial duties with subtlety and aplomb. Their handling of the characters with sincere respect, warts and all, results in a nuanced piece of filmmaking that celebrates the significant contributions made by feminist pioneers.