Lucrecia Martel is quite possibly the leading filmmaker in Latin America today, thanks to her subtle yet scathing critique of patriarchy's traditional gender roles and normative sexuality through a multilayered and innovative cinematic language that privileges nonlinearity over causality, sound over sight, and suspense over closure. This article argues that Martel's trilogy of life in the province of Salta, Argentina, examines the country's incomplete transition to democracy from the perspective of strong, intelligent, and socially privileged female protagonists who do not conform to dominant patriarchal values: first during childhood in La Ciénaga (The Swamp, Argentina, 2001); then during sexual awakening in La niña santa (The Holy Girl, Argentina, 2004); and finally in adulthood in La mujer sin cabeza (The Headless Woman, Argentina, 2008). Because the action in these films appears to develop in a political vacuum, the trilogy reads like a fairy tale and, more specifically, like a rereading of “Little Red Riding Hood” from a feminist perspective. At the same time, however, hints that La Ciénaga is set in the late 1970s, La niña santa in the 1980s, and La mujer sin cabeza in the late 1990s facilitate a complementary, allegorical reading of the trilogy in which the films' protagonists serve as metaphors of Argentina's civil society in its transition from an infantilized social agent during the dictatorship in the 1970s, to the equivalent of a brazen adolescent in the early years of democracy in the 1980s, and finally, to an accommodating accomplice of neoliberalism in the 1990s.

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