Hormigas – or El despertar de las hormigas (The Awakening of the Ants) – is a quietly emancipatory film from Costa Rican writer-director Antonella Sudasassi Furniss, following the daily existence of her protagonist Isabel (Daniella Valenciano) as she begins to find her voice.

Though the central couple have two beautiful girls, aged seven and nine, husband Alcide (Leynar Gómez) desperately wants a son. He uses every opportunity to push his baby nephew into Isabel’s arms to awaken in her the same desire, blind to the fact that she is not responding to his efforts. Among Alcide’s extensive family, Isabel is clearly marked an outsider, living out a different rhythm from the rest of them.

Their existence is a humble one, and Isabel uses her free hours making alterations to add to the household income. However, it’s her husband who takes the extra cash, while Isabel hardly dares to buy a new lightbulb out of their savings. Isabel’s acts of growing defiance are so small they seem almost trivial: buying the lightbulb and acquiring birth control, culminating in cutting her daughters’ curls – she is clearly struggling to break free from her cage, though a real climax never happens.

Woven into the film’s realism are moments of anxiety-filled (day)dreams: first Isabel imagines destroying the cake she has so painstakingly decorated, then she notices her prided long hair is beginning to fall out. The titular ants make several appearances, representing Isabel’s growing awareness of the societal structures she is trapped in.

Sudasassi Furniss shows us an ordinary life, and her directorial choices reflect that. The cinematography is familiar and intimate; there is no need for grandeur in this sensitive portrait of a mundane existence. Her focus remains on her protagonist: Isabel is allowed to assert herself in her own way, proving that a newfound inner voice does not always have to end in a broken marriage.



CAST: Daniella Valenciano, Leynar Gómez

DIRECTOR: Antonella Sudasassi Furniss

WRITER: Antonella Sudasassi Furniss

SYNOPSIS: Isabel is a dressmaker and lives with her family in a small town in Costa Rica. Isa’s husband and the father of their two girls, wants a third child – a son. Isa, however, doesn’t want another pregnancy.