MONSTRA is the Portuguese female word for monster. And it couldn’t be any other way: our beloved animation festival always takes place in March, the month of women and of the warm arrival of spring. In a month dedicated to the history and strength of women’s battles, we also remember that one of the first animated feature films was directed by German Lotte Reiniger, a pioneer in the silhouette technique, 10 years before Walt Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”.

And so, to commemorate the start of the 22nd edition of our festival in exactly two weeks, with International Women’s Day being celebrated on 8 days, we have compiled a series of programming highlights that celebrate the fundamental female participation in the construction of animated cinema, in front of or behind the cameras.

Competition in the female gender

More than 140 women sign the direction of short and feature films in competition at MONSTRA 2023 — a number that would certainly multiply if we took into account the screenwriters, producers, animators and all the other professionals involved in the process of bringing a film to life. In an area such as cinema, which has historically relegated women to oblivion and overshadowed their talents and work, the issue of female representation continues to be an urgent concern, not only on the big screens, but also, and above all, in cinematographic teams and important positions.

Competition in the female gender and in Portuguese

If women directors represent practically half of all the films in the seven competitive sections of the festival, the proportion is the same in the Portuguese Competition. In the running for the prestigious SPA / Vasco Granja Award, five beautiful short films give life, colour and shape to the sensibilities of five filmmakers. Not to be missed: “Octopus”, by Catarina Sobral, and “Something I said”, by Sara Barbas, are both about finding beauty in preserving differences and in discovering similarities; “The Pink Jacket”, by Mónica Santos, and “The Time Keeping House”, by Joana Imaginário (in world premiere), use very singular techniques to think, in their own ways, about the meaning and value of resistance; last but not least, “Deep breath”, by Leonor Pacheco, explores the limits between abstraction and figuration by showing us the conflict of a shape desperately trying to sleep.

Portuguese Competition: 24 March, 9 p.m., at Cinema São Jorge – Manoel de Oliveira Room

Sayoko Kinoshita: the filmmaker who built Asia’s first international animation festival

“Behind every great man, there is always a great woman” — you probably know this old-fashioned saying. After all, great men and great women always go hand in hand. Proof of this is Sayoko Kinoshita, filmmaker, screenwriter and animation producer who, with her partner Renzo, has made countless animated documentary short films that have won many awards at festivals around the world. In 1985, she founded the first international animation festival in Asia, in Hiroshima, where she acted as Director for almost four decades.

In this edition of MONSTRA, a retrospective session awaits us in a deserved tribute to the films produced by Studio Lotus, created by the Kinoshita couple, and to their moving and remarkable stories linked to the theme of the atomic bomb.

Tribute to Renzo Kinoshita and Sayoko Kinoshita: 22 March, 7.30 p.m., Cinemateca Portuguesa – Luís de Pina Room


100 Years of Portuguese Animation: History in the Feminine
March 2nd, 6.30 p.m., at Cinemateca Portuguesa

MONSTRA 2023 Pre-festival: Warm-up Party
March 11, from 8 p.m., at Musa de Marvila

Koji Yamamura: Dozens of Drawings!
From 10 March, at Museu do Oriente

MONSTRA 2023 Pre-festival: Memories of Yesterday, by Isao Takahata
March 11th, 3 p.m., at Cinemateca Júnior

For women, men, children, non-binary persons: everyone is invited to MONSTRA, from March 15 to 26, in several places in Lisbon. Until its start, the accreditations, which guarantee free access to three sessions per day at Cinema São Jorge, can still be purchased at special prices.