What Words Can Do

In 1972, Maria Isabel Barreno, Maria Teresa Horta and Maria Velho da Costa, published the book "New Portuguese Letters". The book was immediately banned by the political police and the writers were trialed for crimes against morality.
"What Words Can Do" is an intimate portrait of the extraordinary Three Marias whose case became the First International Feminist Action.

  • Luísa Sequeira
    Director
    "O que Podem as Palavras" (2022) Feature documentary; “Născută” (2019) Short-film; “Quem é Bárbara Virgínia?" (2017) Feature documentary; "My Choice” (2017) Short-film; “Memória, substantivo feminino” (2016) Short-film; “La Luna” (2016) Short-film; “ Os Cravos e a Rocha”(2016) Short-film; “Motel Sama (2016) TV Series; “Mulheres no Palco” (2006) Short film;
  • Luísa Marinho
    Director
    "O que Podem as Palavras" (2022) Feature documentary; "José Bação Leal – Poeticamente Exausto, Verticalmente Só – A História de José Bação Leal" (2007) Feature documentar; “Grandes Esperanças” (2006) directed by Miguel Marques. Assistant editor.
  • Ana Almeida
    Producer
    "O que Podem as Palavras" (2022) Feature documentary; "Abeba" (2019) Short Film; "A Era das Ovelhas" (2018) Animation Short Film; "A Floresta das Almas Perdidas" (2017) Feature film;.
  • Luísa Sequeira
    Producer
    "O que Podem as Palavras" (2022) Feature documentary; “Născută” (2019) Short-film; “Quem é Bárbara Virgínia?" (2017) Feature documentary; "My Choice” (2017) Short-film; “Memória, substantivo feminino” (2016) Short-film; “La Luna” (2016) Short-film; “ Os Cravos e a Rocha”(2016) Short-film; “Motel Sama (2016) TV Series; “Mulheres no Palco” (2006) Short film;
  • Maria Teresa Horta
    Key Cast
  • Maria Isabel Barreno
    Key Cast
  • Maria Velho da Costa
    Key Cast
  • Project Title (Original Language):
    O Que Podem As Palavras
  • Project Type:
    Documentary
  • Genres:
    Historical, Literature, political, feminism, portugal, dictatorship, trial
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 16 minutes 5 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    May 31, 2022
  • Production Budget:
    90,000 EUR
  • Country of Origin:
    Portugal
  • Country of Filming:
    Brazil, Portugal
  • Language:
    English, French, Portuguese
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital
  • Aspect Ratio:
    16:9
  • Film Color:
    Black & White and Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    No
  • Student Project:
    No
  • DocLisboa IFF
    Lisbon
    Portugal
    October 9, 2022
    World Premiere
    Audience Award for Best Portuguese Film
Director Biography - Luísa Sequeira, Luísa Marinho

Luísa Sequeira
Researcher, director, visual artist and film curator. Artistic director of the film festivals: Shortcutz Porto and Super 9 Mobile Film Fest. Works in different platforms: video, film, photography, collage, exploring the barriers between the digital and the analogic. In recent years, her focus has been the reconstruction of feminine narratives in the history of art and film.
Directed several films, such as: Who is Bárbara Vigínia?, Născută, Os Cravos e a Rocha, My Choice, Memória, substantivo feminino, La Luna, Passageira, Mulheres no palco.
Co-directed with artist Sama the experimental television series Motel Sama and is currently developing the television series: As Pioneiras do cinema em língua portuguesa.

Luísa Marinho
Journalist since 2000. Worked in “O Comércio do Porto” and in the magazine "Sábado". Currently, works at "Evasões", also collaborating with other publications of the same group. She collaborated in the São João National Theater's publication “Duas Colunas”, and in several editions of Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art. She was literary co-editor of the literature, music and visual arts magazine “aguasfurtadas”. Collaborated in the Festival of Theater of Iberian Expression of Porto – FITEI as editorial coordinator. She directed the documentary film “Poetically Exhausted, Vertically Alone – The Story of José Bação Leal”, premiered in 2007 at the DocLisboa Festival. Co-author with Mário Moutinho of the book "Semi-professional theater in Porto: Art, activism and experimentalism in the 70s and 80s", released in 2019.

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Director Statement

Five decades after the publication of the New Portuguese Letters, the story of this book remains pertinent and must be revisited so that generations to come may become acquainted with the women who wrote it. Women who stood against a patriarchal society with literature and the power of words. Women who were tried for writing a book. Whose courage, resolve and deep sense of sisterhood helped them face a hostile society and political regime.
The story of the Three Marias is also a pioneer case of international solidarity. Evoking one of the slogans of the time, “All Women Are Maria”, from Paris to New York, hundreds of women took the streets to show their support to all Portuguese women.
In a time when some democracies show signs of fragility and when one sees, once again, attempts to control one’s liberties, we show this story and their protagonists, for they are an example of resistance in times of repression, whenever they may be.
(Luísa Sequeira and Luísa Marinho)