The viral anthem that accompanied Harvey Weinstein’s trial, “Un Violador en Tu Camino” (A Rapist in Your Way) was heard again at Ji.hlava Intl. Documentary Film Festival on Tuesday during an online conversation with Chilean feminist collective Las Tesis. Taking place as part of the festival’s Inspiration Forum and moderated by documentary filmmaker Martina Malinová.
Established last year by Daffne Valdés, Paula Cometa, Lea Cáceres and Sibila Sotomayor, Las Tesis has since gained notoriety thanks to their collaboration with Pussy Riot, and public performances of their song taking place in Europe, South America and the U.S. Celebrities like Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore, Eva Longoria, Amber Tamblyn or Olivia Wilde have supported their actions.
Talking about their first protests in their home country, which ended with a police intervention, Valdés said: “What we did wasn’t banned by law – it’s a song, sung by a group of women in front of government buildings. So why did the police respond like this? We were accused of inciting hatred and violence, and disobedience against the authority.”
Sotomayor argued that their harsh treatment confirms that the government agrees with “censorship and harassment.” “We are in dialogue with our country’s history and its wounds, and they wanted to punish us for raising our voice,” she said.
“Art can make you think about your own experience, but it can also cross borders and that’s what has happened,” said Cáceres, referring to their performance’s incredible success. Although, as admitted, people who attack them online come from various areas.
“We have never imagined it to have such an impact,” added Cometa. “We think that art is a valid form of protest. We wanted to use it to condemn historical injustice and violence against women, committed even by police officers,” she said. “Unfortunately, our political leadership has been tolerating it and the perpetrators have not been punished.”
Talking about their country’s struggles with poverty, substance abuse and jarring inequality, often resulting in violence against women, the trans community or minorities, they called out their administration and government for ignoring, or even denying what is happening.
“Women’s lives aren’t always respected, because the government prioritizes the market and the economy, and the question of reproductive rights is a never-ending fight,” observed Valdés, with Cáceres chiming in: “During the pandemic, a woman went to denounce a man who was attacking her, and she was punished for going outside during the curfew. People can be accused [of misconduct] and they still remain in their functions. A woman can’t go outside alone because she is not safe and she knows it. She doesn’t even have the right to express herself freely. This is the daily reality in many South American countries,” she said.
Crediting feminist movements and networks in Chile, or South America in general, with giving women the support they so often need, Las Tesis still underlined the importance of putting things into writing, not to mention a proper sex education. As well as thinking about the concept of equal opportunities across different genders, but also different species.
“We aren’t just men and women, there are more creatures who are part of this Earth,” Cáceres said.
“The government doesn’t support us – it’s other women who empathize with our fight. Feminism is a place where we can all meet, but we are striving for specific, institutional changes,” Valdés said. Also admitting that despite the grim reality, she already sees some changes.
“Our society has changed – today’s girls have completely different tools at their disposal. They are able to face the same situations in different ways. They are able to speak up. We see the light at the end of the tunnel already,” she said, also sharing the collective’s dream for the future. “We dream of a society where people aren’t oppressed, it’s that simple.”
“And where a woman can walk down the street at 3 a.m. without being afraid of getting raped,” added Cometa.
The debate took place at the Inspiration Forum, a discussion platform of the Ji.hlava Intl. Documentary Film Festival. The discussions will continue until Nov. 6, with all the recordings available on the festival’s YouTube channel.